PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — After Richmonders voted no on the Urban One casino project, state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Petersburg) is pushing for the ability to have one in Petersburg.
Richmond was one of just five localities in Virginia to get licensed for a casino, but Petersburg must go through a similar legislative process if they want the ability to host a casino.
Senator Joe Morrissey, who represents the 16th district, said a casino could be the investment that Petersburg has been waiting for.
“Richmond’s loss is going to be Petersburg’s gain,” he said.
He said he was disappointed in Richmond’s decision to not bring a casino to the city’s southside, but he says bringing one to Petersburg would transform the area.
“If this happens, the infrastructure, the housing stock, storm water runoff in that area drastically improves,” he said. “Jobs come into the area, people are employed. It’s just an economic engine. The likes which we’ve never seen before in Petersburg.”
He’s been working closely with Petersburg Mayor Samuel Parham who echoed his message.
“Huge, huge bump in revenue for the city of Petersburg,” Parham said. “It has a 100 million dollar budget and it will help us address some of our immediate needs that we have here. With the need of new schools, with the need of new infrastructure, courts.”
Morrissey said he expects several proposals from casino operators.
There are locations already open enough for a casino in Petersburg. Morrissey said the space would have to be about 70-80 acres of land with visibility from interstate 95.
Parham said casino operators have been scoping the city for the perfect location. He said heavy-hitters in the casino industry like Caesar’s are interested in the city.
“I want to protect the fabric of our city which is the Old Towne area,” he said. “I would not want it down in a vicinity where people live.”
Parham said one of his top location choices for a casino would be Wagner Road, because it doesn’t have neighborhoods around it.
However, Petersburg would have to go through the same process as Richmond for a license to operate a casino.
“We’re going to first work in the general assembly to get that gaming license. There’s gonna be a referendum and Petersburg citizens have got to vote on it,” Morrissey said.
Urban One casino operators proposed investing $25 million up front and then $50 million each year in Richmond.
Now some Petersburg residents like Bessie Harris said they could have the same opportunity soon.
“I think everyone would love that because we really don’t have any action going on right now,” she said.