Richmond has culled half of the casino resort development proposals it received last month, narrowing the field to three projects.
The city announced the decision late Wednesday in a statement after the Richmond Times-Dispatch broke the news that the city was no longer considering proposals from Wind Creek Hospitality, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and Golden Nugget.
“These proposals did not advance due to factors such as lack of site control, concerns about the feasibility of financial projections, lack of organizational experience and/or deficiency of the proposal,” Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration said.
The decision occurs as the city continues to collect public feedback on the resort casino proposals it requested late last year. Under a new state law introduced last year, Richmond is allowed to have a single casino operator if local voters approve it in a referendum the city is planning to hold in November.
The remaining projects are the largest economic development proposals the city is publicly considering at the moment.
The proposals are:
- A $517 million project by Urban One, a Washington media company with radio stations in Richmond, and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based owner of Colonial Downs racetrack and Rosie’s gaming emporiums. Their resort would be on property now owned by Philip Morris USA at Commerce Road and Walmsley Boulevard. Urban One would be the majority investor in what it says would be the only majority Black-owned casino in the country.
- A $600 million casino resort proposed on the 17-acre Movieland property by The Cordish Companies, a Maryland developer that already operates casinos under the Live! brand in Baltimore; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; and Tampa and Hollywood, Fla. One of its investors is former NFL star defensive lineman Bruce Smith, a Virginia Beach businessman.
- A $650 million investment by Bally’s Corp. on a 61-acre property at the northeast quadrant of the Powhite and Chippenham parkways in South Richmond. The company operates 11 casinos across seven states. The project’s investors also include two former NFL greats — linebacker Willie Lanier and defensive back Darrell Green.
An evaluation panel that includes seven administration officials and City Council members Andreas Addison and Ellen Robertson selected the three projects because the companies provided detailed financial and operational analyses, according to the city’s statement.
The city now plans to enter negotiations with the three companies while still evaluating their proposals.
Alfred Liggins, CEO of Urban One, said the company is excited to still be in the running.
“We are convinced our selection is based on having the absolute best location in an industrial area off Interstate 95 in South Richmond; having the most diverse group of more than 50 investors providing opportunity for minority ownership and wealth-building in the Richmond community; and offering the most robust amenities including 50 acres of green space for Richmond to enjoy, a music venue and a first-class casino and hotel,” he said.
Zed Smith, chief operating officer at Cordish, touted the company’s casino brand and said, “Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond will maximize jobs, tax revenues and community impacts for the city.”
George Papanier, president and CEO of Bally’s Corp., called the company’s casino proposal “truly a Richmond-first project, dedicated to supporting local businesses and minority organizations by driving job creation and developing sustained economic opportunities.”
Wind Creek Hospitality, a gaming company owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, had proposed building a $541 million casino resort in South Richmond on Ingram Avenue next to the Oak Grove and Blackwell neighborhoods. The Pamunkey tribe had proposed last year to build a casino resort at the same location, but moved after facing opposition from nearby residents.
“We strongly believe that Wind Creek sets itself apart from other operators by not only building casino resorts, but by building up the communities our properties are located within,” said Arthur Mothershed, a Wind Creek spokesperson. “We wish the best of luck to the other operators and to the City of Richmond as they continue through the selection process.”
Some of the remaining projects could also face public opposition.
In a statement Wednesday evening, Councilwoman Katherine Jordan, who represents the area where Cordish is planning to build on the Movieland property, said she is adamantly opposed to its location, noting its proximity to where Virginia Commonwealth University is planning a new athletics village.
“My constituents don’t want it, the thriving greater Scott’s Addition doesn’t need it, and gaming and college sports just don’t mix,” she said. “I welcome the developers to look at other non-gaming investments in our city.”
Smith, at Cordish, said the company plans informational meetings about the project next Wednesday at Movieland and said, “We have made significant efforts to reach out to the community in Scott’s Addition and the city of Richmond.”
The Pamunkey tribe last year relocated to a new location in the 5000 block of Commerce Road right off Interstate 95 in hopes of building its proposed $350 million casino resort.
Chief Robert Gray criticized the city’s decision to no longer consider its project, calling into question whether the city has already determined who it plans to select.
“The timing of this decision also suggests that public and community input will not be seriously considered in this process,” he said, adding that the city declined to give special consideration to its ancestral ties to the region.
“We were shocked to learn of our early dismissal from a process occurring in our native region and state, particularly in light of the fact that the tribe was one of the first entities — if not the first — to talk to the city about gaming before commercial gaming was legalized in the Commonwealth.”
City officials did not respond to questions about Gray’s comments.
Golden Nugget, owned by billionaire Tilman Fertitta as part of the Landry’s Inc. hospitality company in Houston, submitted a $400 million project proposal at the same 61-acre site where Bally’s has proposed to build their project.
Representatives for Golden Nugget did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
The city will hold three more public meetings next week for each of the remaining projects.
More information about the meetings and the projects can be found online at rva.gov/economic-development/resort-casino.