Petersburg VA Casino Plans Could Leave Richmond Behind
Petersburg, VA casino details may be a month away, but residents in the city got their first look at its possible new neighbor in the meantime.
The Petersburg City Council used an Oct. 25 meeting to unveil its partner Cordish Cos. and the Live! Casino brand in a public setting. And, state Sen. Joe Morrissey gave attendees a policy update.
The politics will be important because the Petersburg project can’t just be zoned in. It needs legislative approval followed by a vote of support from residents.
Tuesday night’s meeting in Petersburg’s library lacked casino specifics for now.
Residents don’t yet know the answers to these questions:
- How big is the project?
- Where in Petersburg will the casino be located?
- How much will it cost?
- What attractions are part of the plans?
- How many people will it employ?
Petersburg Mayor Samuel Parham seemed to hope for more details as well. At the end of the Cordish Cos. presentation, he asked COO Zed Smith:
“I know you’ve shown us a lot of commercial, residential and retail space (in other cities). At what point in time would you be ready to come back with some renderings of what the Petersburg site could possibly look like?”
“We’ve got a long ways to go,” Smith answered. “We are in the process of formulating a final plan.”
Smith said the company might be able to come back with more information a month from now.
Petersburg, VA casino needs politics before the payloaders
In March of 2019, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to create five host cities — Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond.
“It was significant legislation because it was the first time that they would have that type of gaming in the Commonwealth. Thereafter, the various cities held referendums.”
Four of them passed in 2020 but as Morrissey explained:
“Last year, the city of Richmond held a referendum and they failed. You don’t have to go into the reasons why it failed, but — for whatever reason — it failed.”
Richmond’s “no” vote paints 2022, 2023 sessions
Once Richmond voters rejected the casino, Morrissey told attendees he met with city leaders to shift Virginia casino efforts in the region to Petersburg. The senator began work when the 2022 Virginia General Assembly was in session as well.
“I introduced legislation that would allow Petersburg to be that fifth host city in the Commonwealth,” he said. “Senate Finance agreed that a study needed to occur first to see if Petersburg could support a casino.”
“And, that study was going to be done by a group that had previously done the study for the other five cities. That JLARC (Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission) study has now been completed. Last week they reported that Petersburg would in fact be able to host a casino. In fact, it met all of the markers by a wide margin.”
JLARC findings suggest Petersburg could gain 1,300 permanent jobs and $12.5 million in local revenue by adding the casino. The state senator paints the estimates as conservative, however. “I expect it would be greater than that,” he said.
“I have now introduced legislation that has already been filed with the general assembly. It’s Senate Bill 780 and it will do the following: It will add Petersburg as the fifth and final eligible host city.”
The legislation calls for a Petersburg, VA casino vote before Richmond gets a new chance to hold a referendum. Richmond wants a new casino vote in November 2023.
“If Petersburg prevails in the referendum, Richmond will be eliminated as a potential host city,” Morrissey said. “And it also, finally, designates that the (Petersburg) referendum will be held in November of 2023.”
He also added:
“I represent Petersburg and Richmond. I don’t there’s another city in the entire Commonwealth that is more deserving of a host city than Petersburg.”
Looking ahead with Cordish Cos. as a partner
Morrissey finished his update by saying he’s “enthusiastic” about the casino group behind the project. Parham told Morrissey he looks forward to working hand in hand with him.
“Let’s get this over the goal line,” the mayor said. “I think it would be a wonderful opportunity for the city of Petersburg.”
If the city scores its Virginia casino, it’s Cordish Cos. who will carry the ball to the end zone.
Cordish has more than a century of experience in real estate development. The company specializes in:
- mixed-use, upscale entertainment
- and casino resort destinations.
“We are long-term investors,” Smith said. “And I think that should be important to you. Some companies come in and they flip properties. That’s not what we do. With that 100-year track record, we are invested into the communities we do business with.”
Cordish opened its first Live! Casino entertainment district in 1999. The company has major projects in Philadelphia, Louisville, Saint Louis and at its headquarters in Baltimore.
Cordish Cos. also developed successful casino projects in Tampa and Hollywood, FL, under the Hard Rock brand.
Hard Rock already has a presence in Bristol, VA. So, look for the Live! Casino brand if Petersburg lands the state’s fifth casino.