Urban One Emerging as Richmond Casino Front-runner, as Project Has Local Support

Posted on: April 19, 2021, 02:54h. 

Last updated on: July 5, 2021, 01:26h.

Urban One’s casino pitch for Richmond’s potential lone gaming license has emerged as the front-runner of the three remaining bids.

Urban One casino resort Richmond
Urban One’s proposed ONE Casino + Resort rendering is seen. The Richmond casino project has become the odds-on favorite for the city’s gaming license, should it become available. (Image: One Casino + Resort)

Headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., Urban One is a media conglomerate invested in television, radio, and digital that has a mission of being “the most trusted source in the African-American community.” The publicly traded firm has partnered with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which owns the Colonial Downs Racetrack in New Kent, Va., for its Richmond casino ambitions.

ONE Casino + Resort is a $517 million casino scheme that is finding favor among local residents in the area where Urban One wants to build. Richmond’s 8th District, where Urban One hopes to build the casino, is almost 70 percent Black and 15 percent Hispanic. 

“The emails, the phone calls and texts, they’re all saying they want it,” 8th District Councilwoman Reva Trammell told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “They want the jobs and to keep real estate taxes down.”

Trammell added that there’s less concern among her constituents regarding a casino in their district because — unlike the two other casino presentations — the Urban One project isn’t in a residential neighborhood, but on land adjacent to Philip Morris’ headquarters. 

Richmond voters will decide whether to authorize a single casino license next November through a local ballot referendum. Only a simple majority is needed for commercial gambling to become legal in the city.  

Other Casinos Rejected

The Bally’s Corporation and Cordish Companies are the two other casino operators that were chosen by Richmond officials as finalists. But their schemes have generated strong backlash from residents in the more White-occupied neighborhoods they wish to build. 

Bally’s is targeting 61 acres of wetlands near the Chippenham and Powhite parkways in the Virginia capital city’s 4th District. The district where Bally’s is planning its $650 million casino is 65 percent white. 

Cordish wants to renovate the former Movieland complex in the Scott’s Addition neighborhood along Arthur Ashe Boulevard into a $600 million casino destination. Scott’s Addition is in the 2nd District, whose residents are 68 percent white.

Residents in the Stratford Hills area where Bally’s is interested have held numerous public protests recently.  

It’s the wrong place for any kind of development. It’s wetlands,” Ralph White, a former manager of the James River Park System, said at once such protest. “I personally am not a supporter of casinos in any place. But if it’s going to happen, put them in a place where they won’t do much damage, will hopefully do some help, and where people support it.”

A neighborhood association in Scott’s Addition told Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney in a recent letter than 94 percent of its homeowners and renters oppose a casino at the Movieland property.

“Because so many of our residents feel strongly that the presence of a large casino resort so close to our neighborhood would be contrary to the interest of the neighborhood, the board of directors has taken the further step of formally opposing the site as well,” a letter from the Ginter Park Residents Association stated.

ONE Details

Urban One says ONE Casino + Resort would feature a casino floor with 2,000 slot machines, 110 table games, and a sportsbook. The hotel would come with 250 rooms.

Other assets of the complex outline include a theater, 12 restaurants and bars, 55 acres of green space, and an on-site television studio and soundstage. 

“ONE will be an unparalleled tourism destination, attracting visitors from all over the country with its energetic, diverse offerings. Situated in an area of Richmond that’s easy to get to, but won’t disrupt other more congested areas, ONE will be a tourism magnet for the city,” Urban One said.