Cordish and Bally’s bid on a casino project in Richmond – Virginia’s last open gaming site

February 23, 2021 12:44 PM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
February 23, 2021 12:44 PM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports

The last remaining Virginia city that state lawmakers approved for a casino resort is being wooed by two of the gaming industry’s high-profile operators.

Story continues below

Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., and Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corp., entered the bidding process Monday for a planned Richmond casino that could result in a multimillion-dollar gaming project in the commonwealth’s capital city.

Cordish submitted plans for a $600 million project modeled on the company’s Live! casino-resort brand. Meanwhile, Bally’s proposed a $650 million hotel-casino development, touting the growing company’s expanding player database and emerging sports betting business.

Richmond was one of five cities Virginia lawmakers approved for casino expansion a year ago, requiring the communities to designate an operating partner and receive a favorable vote from its residents.

Last November, voters in four Virginia cities overwhelmingly approved gaming referendums in their communities.

All four cities had lined up casino operating partners: Bristol with Hard Rock International, Danville with Caesars Entertainment, Portsmouth with Rush Street Gaming, and Norfolk with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

Richmond was given an additional year to choose a casino developer and project site that would be submitted to voters for approval.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Urban One, a black-owned Washington media company, is expected to announce a partnership on Tuesday with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, owner of Colonial Downs Group, for a $517 million casino resort in Richmond.

According to Virginia Business, the Pamunkey tribe is proposing a $350 million, 300-room, hotel-casino with various amenities in Richmond. The tribe is expected to begin construction on its Norfolk project later this year.

Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Global Market Advisors, said he expects other gaming companies to enter the bidding for the Richmond location. He believes a casino in the city would be the second-highest gaming revenue-producing casino in the state.

“I’ve always looked at this market, other than Danville, as a close second if not number one,” Bussmann said.  Danville is in proximity to the Raleigh, Durham, and Greensboro triangle area of North Carolina. Meanwhile, Richmond is close to the Washington D.C. suburbs.

“From a Northern Virginia standpoint, it’s oftentimes an easier drive to Richmond than it is to get to National Harbor,” Bussmann said of the MGM National Harbor resort in Maryland, which is located just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.

Richmond city leaders will not only need to factor in the gaming company involved in the development but also the selected site. The approval is expected by June with the vote taking place in November.

Bally’s and Cordish

Both Bally’s and Cordish pitched ideas of attracting visitors to the community, providing thousands of full-time jobs once the hotel-casino-and entertainment complex opens, as well as thousands of construction positions during the development stage.

“As a former director and the largest shareholder of Richmond-headquartered Media General, I have a strong interest in the growth, development and success of this great city,” Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim said in a statement.

Bally’s proposed the Bally’s Richmond Casino Resort, a $650 million property with 250 hotel rooms and a casino with 2,500 slot machines, 90 table games, 30 poker tables, a high limit gaming area, and a VIP lounge. The property would have convention space, more than a dozen restaurants, and 3,000-seat special events center.

The project would be built on a 61-acre parcel located six miles from downtown Richmond. Bally’s partners with a minority ownership stake include the Lanier Family, which controls a real estate development and construction company owned by Willie Lanier, Jr., son of Pro Football Hall of Famer and Virginia-native Willie Lanier, Sr. Pro Football Hall of Famer Darrell Green has also agreed to acquire a minority stake in the Bally’s Richmond. Green is a resident of Northern Virginia.

Bally’s operates 11 casinos in seven states and in the process of acquiring four additional casinos in three other states.

“Bally’s brings a wealth of experience to this project,” Bally’s CEO George Papanier said in a statement. “We have deep roots in land-based, regional casinos, demonstrated by our national, multi-property portfolio.”

Cordish applied for Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond, which would have 300 rooms, a 4,000-seat entertainment venue, 250,000 square feet of gaming space, and other amenities.

“No gaming or development company in the country has our track record of successfully designing, financing, building, and operating large-scale casino entertainment resort destinations in regional markets,” Cordish Chief Operating Officer Zed Smith said in a statement.

Cordish operates Live! casinos resorts near Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and entertainment venues in several markets.

Cordish, which said the Richmond project would include “substantial by minority-owned companies, said the development would generate $5.3 billion in economic benefits to Richmond over the first 10 years. National Football League Hall of Fame player Bruce Smith, now retired and working as a businessman in Virginia Beach, is among the project’s investors.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.