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Richmond Casino Evaluation Committee Narrows Field To ONE

A rendering of the proposed ONE Casino + Resort in Richmond
A rendering of the proposed ONE Casino + Resort in Richmond. (Courtesy of Urban One)

A panel of city officials put together by Mayor Levar Stoney has selected the Maryland-based media conglomerate Urban One as its preferred casino operator.

Urban One is proposing a $600 million casino development, called ONE Casino + Resort, with more than 2,000 slot machines, 110 table games and a 250-room hotel. It would be located on 100 acres of land near the Port of Richmond that’s currently owned by Philip Morris USA, one of the city’s largest employers. Urban One beat out five other competing bids, including two casino resort proposals in the Scott’s Addition and Stratford Hills neighborhoods that proved controversial.

Richmond City Councilmembers Michael Jones and Reva Trammell, who together represent nearly all of South Richmond, both say they support the casino proposal. Jones said he is also pushing the Stoney administration to invest in roads, sidewalks and other public infrastructure in that area.

“What I’m hoping for is that this kind of investment will cause the City of Richmond to say ‘We have to take care of all neighborhoods now,’” he said.

Both Trammell and Jones are hopeful the project spurs further economic development in the immediate area off Walmsley Boulevard, and the rest of Southside. 

The evaluation panel’s decision to move forward with the Urban One proposal will still need to be approved by Richmond City Council. It’s expected to go through the normal committee process that includes opportunities for public comment. If the proposal is approved, it would be forwarded along to residents who will have the chance to vote on it in a referendum in November.

Trammell said on Thursday that the announcement made her “the happiest person in the world.” She said the project could bring good-paying jobs to her constituents.

“I’ve heard from the people - they call me, I’ve went door-to-door talking to ‘em - and they say ‘Please, we need it,’” she said. 

Trammell also pointed out that unlike casino proposals from Bally’s and The Cordish Companies, which faced sharp opposition from residents and elected officials, the Urban One proposal has community backing. Just last month, the Richmond Highway Neighborhood Civic Association (formerly Jefferson Davis Highway Civic Association) endorsed the Southside casino option.

It’s unclear to what extent the public support or pushback has influenced the decision of the evaluation committee. The process initiated by Stoney has been somewhat opaque: While the evaluation committee held community information sessions and released selection criteria, all of its meetings and deliberations were done in private.

In a statement released Thursday, the city said the panel chose Urban One based on factors such as “the project’s feasibility and sustainability, proposed location, economic development impact, financial revenue impact, and community benefits.” Stoney has also thrown his support behind the decision.

“ONE Casino + Resort presents a tremendous opportunity to develop a resort casino project in Richmond,” Stoney said “The project will create over 1,000 good paying jobs, generate a significant amount of new revenue for the city, and establish an additional economic engine in South Richmond.”

Urban One is partnering on the casino proposal with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which owns and operates the Colonial Downs racetrack and the chain of Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums. Richmond is expecting to receive roughly $30 million each year in tax revenue from the project.

Alfred Liggins, CEO of Urban One, said following the announcement that the development would create a “world-class entertainment destination in Richmond’s Southside.”

“Urban One and our diverse group of local investors are fully committed to creating good paying jobs with profit-sharing for employees, pathways to successful careers, and generating significant new tax revenues that can improve Richmond’s schools and fund community programs and infrastructure,” Liggins said.