Cordish Companies Prepping Petersburg Casino Plan in Virginia

The Cordish Companies wants to bring its Live! casino brand south to Virginia by way of Petersburg.

Cordish Companies Petersburg casino Richmond Virginia
Cordish Companies Petersburg casino Richmond Virginia
The Cordish Companies COO Zed Smith speaks before the Petersburg City Council on Oct. 25, 2022. Cordish plans to soon present its casino resort pitch to the city council. (Image: The Progress Index)

The Baltimore-based gaming firm operates three Live! casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The company has additionally developed non-gaming entertainment districts under the Live! brand in multiple states.

Cordish has its eyes set on Virginia for its next play. The company missed out on Richmond’s casino opportunity last year after leaders in the capital city went with a $565 million casino pitch from a consortium led by Urban One, a Black-focused media conglomerate.

But Richmond voters ultimately rejected the Urban One plan called ONE Casino + Resort. That prompted Virginia Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Petersburg) to initiate state legislation to allow Petersburg to instead consider a casino. Petersburg is about 15 miles south of the ONE Casino site near the Philip Morris tobacco along I-95.

Though Morrissey’s bill didn’t pass this year, he plans to resurrect the bill in 2023.

Petersburg Prep

Virginia’s commercial gaming bill passed in 2020 and signed by then-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) allowed only certain cities that have long experienced economic hardship to consider a casino development. Five cities met the specific qualifying criteria: Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Danville.

All but Richmond have since passed local casino referendums in hopes of jumpstarting their economies in each region. Richmonders narrowly opted against the ONE Casino + Resort plan 51-49%.

Richmond hopes to re-ask voters during the 2023 election about the gaming initiative, with Mayor Levar Stoney (D) and the majority of the Richmond City Council of the belief that a more coordinated message promoting the economic benefits of ONE Casino + Resort would result in a different outcome. But Morrissey believes a second casino referendum in Richmond would go against the democratic process.

The state senator, who lost the 2016 Richmond mayoral race to Stoney before seeking the state Senate, believes a casino in Petersburg would still aid Richmond in its economic recovery. And Morrissey says the people of Petersburg are more supportive of allowing a casino in their town.

The Petersburg City Council earlier this month passed a resolution identifying Cordish Companies as its preferred casino developer should Virginia allow the city to consider a gaming resort. During a council meeting this week, Cordish Chief Operating Officer Zed Smith said the company is finalizing its Petersburg blueprint.

Smith says he expects the final scheme to be revealed to the council within 30 days.

Cordish, Morrissey Revenge

Morrissey and Cordish both have added reason to be optimistic about the chances of building a casino in Petersburg after both were unwelcomed in Richmond.

Along with Morrissey being rejected by city voters in favor of Stoney back in 2016, Richmond leaders last year rejected Cordish’s casino plan for the city.

Cordish targeted Arthur Ashe Blvd. in the historic Scott’s Addition neighborhood northwest of downtown Richmond. The company presented a $610 million plan featuring a 300-room hotel with 18 restaurants, a movie theater, a full spa and wellness center, convention and meeting space, and a sprawling casino floor measuring 250,000 square feet.

But the Richmond City Council went with Urban One, a company that has no track record developing or running a casino. The company tried to satisfy lack of experience concerns by partnering with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, a casino operator that also operates historical horse racing (HHR) machines at five Rosie’s Gaming Emporium locations in Virginia.

P2E, which is in the process of being acquired by Churchill Downs, Inc., is additionally building a $400 million HHR gaming resort destination called The Rose Gaming Resort in Dumfries about 30 miles south of DC.

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