PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham and casino operator Cordish Companies have unveiled a $1.4 billion proposal for a casino in the city, which has not yet gotten permission to build one.
The project, titled ‘Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia,’ would feature a hotel, casino, resort pool and an event center that could host live music, according to preliminary plans published Tuesday.
“The details unveiled today show what the City’s vision is for this type of project and why we wanted to work with Cordish as the developer,” said Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham.
Unlike Urban ONE, the company behind Richmond’s failed casino proposal, the Cordish Companies already operate several casinos in Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Urban ONE, a media company that operates radio stations across the eastern United States, had to partner with an outside company as part of its proposal to Richmond.
While Urban ONE was under consideration for the proposal in Petersburg, State Senator Joe Morrissey — a staunch opponent of Richmond’s casino and advocate for Petersburg’s — accused Urban ONE CEO Alfred Liggins of seeking a second casino referendum in Richmond only after Petersburg refused to give Urban ONE preferential treatment.
The new proposal from Cordish would see the 4 million-square-foot complex — including 1300 residential units — built in a wooded, swampy area at the far southern end of the city, near an interchange with Interstate 95.
“Live! Gaming & Entertainment District will be a catalyst for change and significant urban development, will transform the City by creating a thriving entertainment and hospitality attraction for the entire Region,” said Zed Smith, COO of The Cordish Companies.
There’s just one problem: the City of Petersburg has not yet been granted permission by the state to open a casino.
Under the original casino bill passed in 2020, five independent cities — Richmond, Portsmouth, Danville, Norfolk and Bristol — received permission to hold referendums on the construction of casinos. All but the City of Richmond approved their projects, with voters in Richmond narrowly rejecting the proposal in 2021.
A state budget passed this year barred Richmond from trying again in 2022, but a proposal by Morrissey to hand the opportunity to Petersburg was also shelved. The question is almost certain to come up again in the General Assembly’s next session in January.
“I would say respectfully to the leaders in Richmond that it is time for you to move on,” Morrissey said in June.
To complicate matters even further, a state study commissioned in the wake of Richmond’s failed vote found that there was a third viable solution: just open a casino in both cities.