Petersburg, Va., to Field Casino Pitches, Urban One Back to Bidding Pool

Posted on: February 3, 2022, 01:11h. 

Last updated on: February 3, 2022, 09:01h.

City officials in Petersburg, Va., say there will be no backroom deals should it receive state approval to move forward with considering a commercial casino resort.

Petersburg Virginia casino Richmond gaming
Traffic partitions south along I-295 in Virginia guide drivers towards Richmond and Petersburg. A legislative effort on the state level seeks to allow Petersburg to consider Richmond’s casino opportunity that its residents rejected last November. (Image: AARoads)

Residents in Richmond last November narrowly rejected a local ballot question seeking the public’s authorization of a proposed $565 million project called ONE Casino + Resort. That’s when state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) began looking elsewhere to build the gaming destination. He believes Petersburg, located roughly 20 miles south of the Virginia capital, is a natural fit.

Morrissey’s Senate Bill 203 would qualify Petersburg to consider a casino undertaking, while simultaneously preventing cities that reject a gaming referendum from conducting a revote on the matter for a minimum of five years.

SB203 made some progress recently by passing a senate subcommittee. The legislation currently resides with the chamber’s General Laws and Technology Committee.

No Preferred Developer

Virginia’s 2020 commercial gaming bill allowed five cities with economic hardship to consider a casino to generate new jobs, taxes, and investment activity. Richmond was the lone city of the handful of qualifiers to say no to a casino.

Despite being a media conglomerate with no casino experience, Urban One managed to emerge as the preferred gaming resort developer in Richmond. The publicly traded entertainment company beat out other bids from more notable gaming firms, including Bally’s, The Cordish Companies, Golden Nugget, and Wind Creek Hospitality.

Morrissey revealed this week to 8Newsthat Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins asked soon after the Richmond defeat if his company would be the preferred partner in Petersburg. “No,” was apparently the answer.

Morrissey says the exchange occurred during a meeting with Liggins, Petersburg Mayor Samuel Parham, and members of the city council.

“Towards the end [of the meeting], Alfred Liggins said, ‘I’m assuming I would be the preferred vendor to be the casino operator?’ Everybody looked at each other and the mayor said, ‘No. It is a competitive process. You’ll have to go through the process like everybody else.’

This is not Richmond. There are no back deals going on,” Morrissey added without further explaining.

Morrissey claims Liggins then went back to Richmond officials to express his support for the capital to ask voters again about its failed referendum and ONE Casino + Resort.

Liggins didn’t deny Morrissey’s claims in response for comment from 8News, but maintains that his conversations with the senator have been “nothing but constructive.”

Richmond Revote Progressing

Morrissey is seeking to roadblock an effort by the Richmond City Council to place the gaming matter before its voters during the 2022 November midterms. The state Senator says such a revote is undemocratic.

The Richmond City Council has passed ordinances that pave the way for a second vote on ONE Casino. The council and Mayor Levar Stoney (D) believe a more coordinated campaign promoting the benefits of the resort will win over a simple majority of residents to allow Urban One to build its first casino complex.

But if Morrissey’s casino bill passes the Virginia General Assembly and is signed by freshly minted Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), the state law would supersede Richmond’s local ordinances and effectively ban a second gaming referendum there.