Richmond Officials Hire Casino Consultancy to Help Select Winning Bid in Virginia Capital

Posted on: January 29, 2021, 09:40h. 

Last updated on: January 29, 2021, 02:06h.

City officials in Richmond have hired a consultant to assist in the selection of a casino project.

Richmond casino Virginia gambling
Leonard Sledge, director of the Richmond Economic Development Authority, is leading the city’s casino ambitions. Voters next fall, however, will have the final say. (Image: YouTube)

Next November, Richmond residents will decide whether to authorize a single casino through a ballot referendum. The question before voters will lay out specifics of the gaming resort blueprint, including details of the city’s designated casino operator.

The Richmond Economic Development Authority (EDA) yesterday awarded New Orleans-based Convergence Strategy Group the consultancy contract. Convergence says it specializes in gaming industry matters, including project feasibility, demographic and market analysis, master planning, and strategy development.

The EDA has up to $120,000 to spend on consultant fees for the casino project.

Danville, Virginia, also hired Convergence to help it select a casino partner. The city ultimately went with Caesars Entertainment.

Danville, along with three other cities — Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Bristol — passed their casino referendums during the November 2020 election.

Casino Bids Pending

Richmond began its bidding period on December 28. Now through February 22, companies interested in pitching the city can submit casino presentations. Convergence and the EDA will review each, and ultimately pick a winner.

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has publicly stated that it will bid in Richmond. The small tribe has already won the gaming rights in Norfolk and is building a $500 million casino there in a partnership with billionaire Jon Yarbrough.

The Native American tribe has expressed its plans to construct a $350 million gaming property in Richmond in the Manchester neighborhood. The area is located just south of the downtown capital area across the James River.

Colonial Downs Group is another interested party. The company operates 2,150 historical horse racing machines throughout Virginia at seven off-track betting locations, plus its Colonial Downs racetrack.

The Cordish Companies, based in Baltimore, has additionally expressed interest in Richmond. In 2005, the gaming and hospitality firm developed Riverside on the James, an $86 million rehabilitation of a 100-year-old power plant. Today, the building features 240,000 square feet of office space, 122 apartments, and an 800-space parking lot.

Cordish is amid a legal fight in Norfolk regarding the city picking the Pamunkey Tribe for its casino. Cordish, which invested $40 million to rehabilitate Norfolk’s Waterfront District in 2013, says its contract with the city says it would receive gaming privileges should Virginia ever move to legalize commercial gambling.

Delayed Casino Time Line

Virginia’s gaming law signed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) last year allowed five economically distressed cities to ask their voters whether they want to approve a casino. The gaming projects are designed to provide an economic spark to the struggling metros.

Richmond qualified, but opted to wait another year on the measure. City officials said the development of such magnitude deserved a more careful review and planning.

Next November, if a simple majority of Richmond voters back the casino, Virginia will have legalized five commercial casinos.

The four casino referendums last November all easily passed. Bristol received 71 percent support, Danville 69 percent, Portsmouth 67 percent, and Norfolk 65 percent.