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Richmond Moves Three Casino Proposals Forward As Opposition Mounts

Aerial city view
An aerial view of the city of Richmond. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

The city of Richmond announced late Wednesday night that an evaluation panel, appointed by Mayor Levar Stoney, had removed three proposed casino developments from the running.

Projects from developers Wind Creek Hospitality, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and Golden Nugget will not move forward. In a statement, a city spokesperson said the three proposals were not chosen as finalists because of concerns around land ownership, feasibility and the impacts on surrounding communities, among others. Three proposals — one at the Movieland property near Scott’s Addition and two south of the James River — will advance in the selection process.

“The top ranked proposals stood out because the operators provided strong proposals with detailed financial and operational analyses to support their vision for a resort casino in Richmond,” said spokesperson Devin Wood. “The Evaluation Panel will enter into the next phase of evaluation and begin negotiations with these operators while continuing to engage the Richmond community.”

The city’s announcement Wednesday night came after the Richmond-Times Dispatch reported at least two proposals had been dropped.

Richmond was one of five cities selected by the Virginia General Assembly in 2019 to potentially host new casino developments. The final proposal selected by Stoney’s evaluation panel will go to Richmond City Council for approval. It will ultimately end up on the November ballot as a voter referendum. Residents in the four other cities — Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth — voted overwhelmingly in support of a casino development.

But in Richmond, pushback is already forming against at least two of the three proposals still on the table.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Richmond City Council Member Kristen Larson said she was concerned about the proposed casino resort in the Stratford Hills neighborhood in her district.

The Bally’s Corporation, a Rhode Island-based casino operator, proposed a $650 million project on 61 acres of vacant, wooded land at the intersection of the Powhite and Chippenham parkways. According to the company, the development would include 2,500 slot machines, 90 table games and a 250-room four-star hotel. Like many of the other potential operators, Bally’s is promising to bring local, minority-owned businesses into the casino resort.

The property where the Bally’s Richmond Casino Resort would be located currently has no public access leading in and out of the property. Larson said that has led to concerns from nearby residents about increased traffic on local roads.

“The anticipated casino traffic would be extremely problematic,” Larson said. “Although that’s a major artery, it’s not a major artery that could withstand that kind of increased traffic.”

Those concerns were echoed by Del. Betsy Carr (D-Richmond), who represents that area. She said she would be writing to Stoney, urging him to kill the Bally’s proposal.

Larson also said she feels a casino resort would not jive with the surrounding community.

“This area in general is a retail area, and it’s a residential area, but it’s not exactly an entertainment district,” she said. “The area is surrounded by older, well established neighborhoods...It really is a suburban area within a city.”

A proposal from the Cordish Companies, who run multiple casinos and entertainment districts throughout the U.S., is also facing pushback from residents.

The company is proposing a casino resort near Scott’s Addition that it is calling Live! Casino + Hotel. The project would include restaurants, entertainment venues and 300 boutique hotel rooms. It would be located off Arthur Ashe Boulevard on property owned by Bow Tie Cinemas.

Richmond City Council Member Katherine Jordan, who represents the district where that casino would be located, said she’s not talked to one constituent who has been in favor of the proposal.

“Scott’s Addition is this very vibrant district that is homegrown,” Jordan told VPM. “We have locally driven development there. It’s thriving. People don’t see the need to bring in this huge outside development.”

In a strongly worded statement Wednesday night, Jordan said she was a “hard ‘no’” on the proposal and encouraged the developer to pursue a non-casino project in the area.

Compared to the projects in Stratford Hills and the Greater Scott’s Addition area, a proposal from Urban One in Southside has not generated immediate backlash. That proposal would see a smaller casino and hotel built on Phillip Morris USA property at Commerce Road and Walmsley Boulevard. Urban One, a Black-owned, Maryland-based media company, is promising the city $25 million in advertising for local initiatives and $30 million in contributions to local nonprofits if selected.

Council member Reva Trammell, who represents the district, has not issued a statement on the proposals. She did not respond to a request for comment. While Carr said she would seek to kill the proposal in Stratford Hills, she says she supports the Urban One proposal in the less affluent, mostly Black and Latino 8th District.