What’s Next for Urban One & Richmond Casino after Voters Reject Plan?

What’s Next for Urban One & Richmond Casino after Voters Reject Plan?
By Keith Stein

After Richmond residents voted down building a casino in the city — which would have been the fifth in the state under Virginia gambling law — the company that won bidding on the project and the city are considering their options.

The plan called for Urban One to build ONE Casino + Resort along Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond. The law that expanded Virginia gambling permitted casinos in Richmond and four other cities if voters approved.

"For the last two years, we have worked so hard to build a large and inclusive tent with our ONE Casino + Resort project. We had a lot of loyal supporters who worked tirelessly on behalf of this project and for whom we will be eternally grateful,” ONE Casino + Resort CEO Alfred Liggins wrote in an email published by WTVR 6 News after the defeat at the ballot box on Nov. 2. "This is a huge missed opportunity for Richmond residents to have a tourist attraction that would have provided the financial resources to improve schools and roads as well as enrich the lives of its citizens.”

Public comments on Facebook in response to VirginiaIsForBettors article "Big Names Voice Support for Richmond Casino in Early Voting" show a different view.

“Standalone casinos don't help 'tourism,' ask any of the hundred Indian casinos that pepper the mid-West,” said Gene Puckett of Yorktown, Virginia. “They should have gone with [Golden] Nugget or Bally's that have a national draw. Again, people who have no clue do the voting.”

Leading up to voting, Rev. Al Sharpton, founder & president of National Action Network, endorsed the Urban One casino in an opinion piece published in the Richmond Free Press. “As you are reading, there are absolutely no Black-built and Black-owned gaming resort enterprises in this entire country,” Sharpton said. “But the time is right for Richmond, Va., to change the future of an entire industry that has historically regarded us merely as customers.”

Virginia cities Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth all passed casino referendums last November by large margins. By law only one casino can be built in Richmond.

“Gambling for some is addictive and a vice. No name or a big name, build it and they will come,” Tony Latina said in a Facebook post.


So What Now in Richmond?

Liggins says he is firmly committed to making casino gaming a key part of Urban One, the Black media conglomerate he runs. Liggins said his company may now work to build its casino in a city or county near Richmond. That process would first need to go through the Virginia General Assembly.

Unofficial results showed 51% of Richmond voters rejected the $562.5 million ONE Casino and Resort proposal.

The city isn't new to gambling establishments. Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, owned and operated by Colonial Downs Group, has been operating in Richmond since 2019. Under Virginia law, Rosie's Gaming Emporiums are not considered casinos and do not provide the same type of games offered by casinos. Rosie's facilities operate Historical Horse Racing machines and offer off-track betting on horse racing.

The Richmond defeat does not mean that there will be no casino in the Richmond “region.” according to an article published by the Free Press. Liggins said he believes it is likely that the General Assembly will consider awarding the casino opportunity to another locality in Central Virginia.

“I think the General Assembly has gotten comfortable with the idea of a casino in the Central Virginia area,” Liggins said.

There is already talk of Petersburg being a possible casino site.


Petersburg Would Welcome Future Casino Project

“Within seconds, my brain was saying, ‘What Richmond’s lost is Petersburg’s gain,’” state Sen. Joe Morrisey said while watching election results. He represents both South Richmond, where the deal failed, and Petersburg.

Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham says he already has met with an official with Urban One to show off potential development sites, including an area off Wagner Road.

The General Assembly and the governor would have to agree to give Petersburg a gaming license to make this happen. Then the measure would head to voters once again. Morrisey wants this fast-tracked so that part could happen as early as June.


Richmond Chose Urban One Casino Plan

Richmond’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel selected Urban One Casino and Resort in April after reviewing six proposals from well-known casino companies like Cordish Cos., Bally's and Golden Nugget, to name a few. The City Council approved and selected Urban One in June.

In addition to casinos, Virginia online sports betting launched in January and currently has ten sportsbooks live for bettors. Bally Bet was the most recent sportsbook to go live on Thanksgiving Day. Three other online sportsbooks — PointsBet, Betway and 888 — have been awarded temporary permits by the lottery, but have not announced when they will launch in the state.

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

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