Bally’s Eliminated From Richmond Casino Race, Competition Down to Two

  • Urban One and The Cordish Companies remain as the two finalists
  • The city had environmental and site access concerns about Bally’s $650m proposal
  • Cordish’s $600m plan would be on the city’s North Side
  • Urban One partnered with Peninsula Pacific for a South Side development
  • Bally’s has made scores of casino acquisitions in the past year, including Tropicana Las Vegas
People standing while one falls through a trap door
Only The Cordish Companies and Urban One remain in the competition to build a commercial casino in Richmond, Virginia, as Bally’s was eliminated from consideration on Wednesday. [Image:]

Update April 21, 2021: Bally’s has responded to the Richmond elimination with a statement. CEO and president George Papanier maintained that the company offered the strongest and “largest financial package” of all the final contenders. He reiterated Bally’s deep commitment to the project, adding: “Should the City reconsider its decision, we would be pleased to reengage.”

The company said it respects the city’s decision, and will now focus on launching its “best-in-class online sports betting platform” via a temporary permit it obtained recently to offer wagering options in Virginia.

Location concerns scuttled bid

The competition to build the first casino in the Richmond, Virginia area is now heads-up. On Wednesday, Mayor Levar Stoney’s office announced that it has eliminated Bally’s Corporation from the running, leaving just The Cordish Companies and Urban One battling for gambling supremacy in the state capital.

ready to give the city a $100m one-time payment

Bally’s had proposed a 61-acre site on the South Side, near Chippenham Parkway and the Powhite Expressway. The $650m project would have been 1.6 million square feet, with a sportsbook, entertainment venue, retail, dining, and a hotel. The company was also ready to give the city a $100m one-time payment.

In rejecting Bally’s, Leonard Sledge, director of the Richmond Department of Economic Development, said that there were concerns about “site access, environmental factors and required approvals from non-city entities that may not be granted or extend the project timeline.”

Local residents who stood in opposition to the Bally’s project were worried about traffic and increased crime.

Bally’s actually attempted to change its location, but the city would not allow it, as it was included in last year’s proposals.

Cordish versus Urban One

And so it is down to The Cordish Companies and Urban One. The former is the developer-operator of multiple casino, hotel, and retail properties around the country, including Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland and Live! Casino Pittsburgh. It also helped develop the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos in both Tampa and Hollywood, Florida.

Its $600m proposal would be on the North Side of the city and would include a 250,000 square-foot gaming floor, a 4,000 seat entertainment space, and a hotel with 300 standard rooms and 30 suites. Potential neighbors have the same complaints about Cordish’s plan as did those who lived near Bally’s proposed location.

the largest African-American-owned broadcasting company in the US

Urban One is the largest African-American-owned broadcasting company in the US, owning and operating 55 radio stations, plus the TV One television network. As it is not a gaming company, Maryland-based Urban One has teamed with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which owns the Colonial Downs Racetrack in New Kent, Virginia, and the Rosie’s Gaming Emporium chain.

At a price tag of $517m, Urban One’s casino would be on the South Side of Richmond and feature a 90,000 square-foot casino floor, a dozen bars and restaurants, a 3,000-seat theater, a sportsbook, and a 150-room hotel.

Even after the Richmond City Council votes on the nine-member advisory panel’s selected proposal, the casino is not automatically a go. Richmond voters will then have their opportunity to decide in November. This past November, voters in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth approved the legalization of casinos in their cities.

Six developers originally threw their hats into the Richmond ring. In March, the city eliminated the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos, and Wind Creek Hospitality.

Bally’s has been on a roll

Despite the disappointment of losing its bid, Bally’s has been plenty busy in the past year. Almost exactly a year ago, while still named Twin River Worldwide Holdings, the company bought Bally’s Atlantic City from Caesars Entertainment and VICI Holdings for $25m.

In July, it helped facilitate the Caesars/Eldorado merger by taking Lady Luck Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Isle of Capri Casino in Kansas City, Missouri off Eldorado Resorts’ hands for $230m. It followed that up in October by acquiring Jumer’s Casino in Illinois for $120m and Tropicana Evansville (Indiana) for $140m.

That same month, Twin River bought the Bally’s brand from Caesars for $20m and renamed itself Bally’s in November 2020. Then, just last week, Bally’s announced that it has acquired Tropicana Las Vegas for $150m, its first presence on the Las Vegas Strip.

Bally’s has also made headlines with its $2.74bn purchase of Gamesys in March, multitudes of betting partnerships with sports leagues and teams, and its bidding war against Element Partners for the World Poker Tour.

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