Proposed Developer of Virginia Casino in Petersburg Has Public Meeting

Proposed Developer of Virginia Casino in Petersburg Has Public Meeting
By Keith Stein
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Officials from the City of Petersburg, along with state officials and Baltimore-based casino developer, The Cordish Companies, held their first public meeting this week to provide a summary of the benefits of placing a casino in the city.

Petersburg officials announced on Oct. 18 that they had selected The Cordish Companies as a partner to develop a casino in the city. The selection came one day after Virginia's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released a study showing that both Petersburg and Richmond could each support a casino under state law. Richmond, the state capital, is about 25 miles north of Petersburg.

Virginia state Senator Joe Morrissey kicked off the Special City Council Meeting as the first speaker reviewing his approach to getting a casino in the city.

As part of a burgeoning list of gaming options that includes Virginia sportsbooks, the Virginia General Assembly approved five cities to have casinos; Danville, Bristol, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Richmond.

Virginia Casino Building Progress

The first four of those cities passed casino referendums but Richmond did not.

“During the 2022 General Assembly session, I introduced legislation that would allow Petersburg to be that fifth casino host city,” Morrissey said.

Richmond voted down a casino referendum in 2021. The city had plans to hold a second referendum but was halted when Petersburg showed interest in the project. But a study needed to be performed first by the JLARC team to see if Petersburg could support a casino.

“Last week they (JLARC) reported that Petersburg would in fact be able to host a casino,” Morrissey said at the council meeting. “In fact, it met all of the marks by a wide margin. In their report, the casino, after construction, would have almost 1,300 permit jobs and provide $12.5 million of local revenue.”

Morrissey wants to hold a casino referendum for Petersburg in 2023.

He also is not keen on the idea of both Petersburg and Richmond having casinos, though the JLARC study said Virginia could support both.

“The legislation specifically states that Petersburg must vote in a referendum before Richmond has another opportunity to hold a second referendum,” Morrissey continued. “If Petersburg prevails in the referendum, Richmond will be eliminated as a potential host city.”

Petersburg’s Case for a Casino

But why Petersburg?

Morrissey told the council, “I don't think there is another city in the entire commonwealth that is more deserving to be a host city than Petersburg. Petersburg has had some challenges over the last four or five decades, and they have overcome those challenges. But when you look at what the General Assembly wants in a host city. Petersburg is at the top of the list.”

Morrissey said he is very “enthusiastic” about Petersburg’s selection of The Cordish Companies.

The Cordish Companies was one of six companies in the running to develop a casino in Richmond. Urban One, a media company geared toward the African-American community, was finally selected to develop the Richmond casino if the referendum had passed.

There has been little movement to make online casinos in Virginia a reality.

A consultant at the City Council meeting on Tuesday said she evaluated five interested casino operators, visited six states, and evaluated seven properties for the City of Petersburg, before selecting The Cordish Companies.

Cordish Seeks to ‘Unlock the Potential of Petersburg’

Cordish COO Zed Smith told the city council, “Part of our job here, as you selected us to do, is unlock the potential of Petersburg.”

During his presentation before the city council, Smith said The Cordish Companies developed three of the top 10 grossing casinos in the United States in 2019. He highlighted Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood in Florida, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, and Maryland’s Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover.

Smith said Maryland Live is one of the largest casinos on the East Coast and Hard Rock Hollywood and Tampa are the most successful in the country.

He told council members the company is “in the process of finalizing a formal plan,” which he expects to submit within 30 days.

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Contributors

Keith Stein is a Virginia-based writer for BetVirginia.com who covers sports betting and casinos.

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