Casino Life

Richmond, VA Race for Casino Resort Down to Three Bidders

The Virginia City of Richmond has rejected half of the casino proposals it received from interested developers last month, news emerged Wednesday.

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Golden Nugget, and Wind Creek Hospitality are no longer in the race for the preferred operator of the city’s future Las Vegas-style hotel and casino resort. Bally’s Corporation, The Cordish Companies, and a joint venture between Colonial Downs and Maryland media company Urban One Inc. are still in the running.

Under a comprehensive gambling expansion bill passed by state lawmakers last year, Richmond was one of five cities that were picked to host casino resorts in a bid to bolster their economies.

City officials confirmed on Wednesday that they are no longer considering half of the proposals after local news outlets first broke the news. Major Levar Stoney’s administration said in a statement that the above three projects did not advance “due to factors such as lack of site control, concerns about the feasibility of financial projections, lack of organizational experience and/or deficiency of the proposal.”

Richmond is in the middle of collecting public feedback on the casino resort proposals. The city is expected to name its preferred developer this summer. However, Richmond residents have the final say on the matter.

They will decide the fate of the preferred casino candidate in a local referendum in November. Voters in the other four cities that were selected to host full-scale gaming complexes, with those being Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, overwhelmingly approved the projects in the November 2020 ballot.

The Casino Proposals

The three remaining projects are the largest economic development schemes currently considered by Richmond leaders. Bally’s, a Rhode Island-based casino operator that has been expanding aggressively in recent years, has tabled the most expensive bid.

The company looks to build a $650 million resort on a 61-acre parcel south of the James River. The complex will include a casino with a sportsbook, a hotel, dining and retail outlets, and performance space, among other amenities.

The Cordish Companies has proposed a $600 million Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond resort on the city’s North Side, not far from The Diamond baseball stadium. The property will feature a hotel with 300 rooms and 30 suites, a 250,000-square-foot casino with different gaming options, and a 4,000-seat entertainment venue.

Urban One and Colonial Downs have pitched a $517 million project that will include a 150-room hotel, a 90,000-square-foot casino with a sportsbook, 12 bars and restaurants, a 3,000-seat theater, and more. If chosen by city officials, the property will be built on 100 acres of land on Richmond’s South Side.

The three projects were selected by an evaluation panel that was assembled to review the separate bids. It includes seven administration officials and two city council members. According to the city’s Wednesday statement, the panel picked the above three projects because the companies behind them provided detailed financial and operational analyses.

Rejected Bidder Criticizes Selection Process

The Pamunkey Tribe was particularly vocal about its bid dropping from the race. Tribal Chief Robert Gray said Wednesday that they are extremely disappointed to have their proposal rejected and that the timing of the city’s decision, “which comes before the public comment period has even concluded, seriously undermines confidence in the selection process and suggests a predetermined outcome has been reached.”

It should be noted that the tribe was last year selected to build Norfolk’s casino. It is set to break ground on the $500 million property later this year. The tribe tabled a $350 million proposal for Richmond, which included a 300-room luxury hotel tower, a spa, a pool complex, and a fitness center in addition to a gaming floor.

The project was the least expensive one of all six. The tribe planned to build the resort on a 24.5-acre site on the city’s South Side.

Wind Creek, the gaming and hospitality arm of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, presented city officials with a $541 million plan on the city’s South Side that included a 100,000-square-foot casino, a 67,000-square-foot entertainment center, a spa, an indoor pool, and seven food and beverage outlets.

Golden Nugget, owned by Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta, would have built a $400 million gaming complex at the same 61-acre site where Bally’s wants to build its resort.

Source: Richmond cuts three of six casino proposals, Virginia Business, March 24, 2021

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