The Cordish Companies is eyeing Wagner Road and Interstate 95 as the location for its proposed Petersburg, Virginia casino. The plan to develop a gaming property on the south side of the city was revealed by Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, on Wednesday. However, the project is dependent on whether the General Assembly allows Richmond to seek a second casino referendum.
Morrissey said in an interview that the Baltimore-based casino developer would not proceed with a smaller project in Petersburg if it had to compete with a casino in South Richmond, reports Richmond Times-Dispatch. Allowing both cities to proceed would produce two smaller, regional casinos, which the Sen. described as “slots in a box.”
Morrissey pointed out that, even though the regional casinos would still make millions, “that’s not what Cordish is going to do.” This is “no glitzy box on 20 acres on Wagner Road,” the Senator added. “It is a destination casino.” Cordish has yet to publicly release the details of its proposed project, which would be developed under a partnership with Petersburg that the City Council approved last month.
A long-awaited legislative study concluded in October showed Petersburg could support the operation of a casino, regardless of whether the city of Richmond were to host one as well. However, should both cities pursue gaming projects, these would be smaller in scale, with fewer local tax benefits and fewer jobs.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study found that a casino in Petersburg alone would generate an estimated $204 million in gaming revenues in 2028, after one full year of operation, while one in Richmond could produce almost $300 million in gaming revenues.
While a Petersburg casino would increase state gaming tax revenues by almost $25 million, properties in both cities would produce about $49 million. However, Petersburg would receive $12.2 million in local tax revenue from one casino, but that share would fall to $8.4 million if Richmond were to open a competing operation. Richmond would receive almost $15 million in local taxes with two casinos.
The study comes as both cities make efforts towards hosting a casino. While a state law adopted in 2020 selected Richmond as a potential site for a property, voters in the city rejected a proposal last year for a $565 million casino resort. The city has then sought to hold a second voter referendum, a move that Morrissey has adamantly opposed, persuading legislators to block the effort until JLAR completed its study of Petersburg’s viability as a host city.
The proposed Urban ONE project Richmond reject last year
He already has filed legislation for the next General Assembly session that would allow Petersburg to host a casino resort instead of Richmond, reports the Times-Dispatch. His proposal bill would prevent Richmond from conducting a second referendum until Petersburg voters have their first shot.
Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, the new chairman of the Senate General Laws Committee, said the legislation would be reviewed first by a subcommittee chaired by Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William, who played a central role in the passage of casino and other gaming laws in 2020.
Morrissey said back in October that the city of Petersburg was “not interested” in two regional casinos. “If there are two casinos 25 miles from each other, they would cannibalize each other,” he told Times-Dispatch at the time. The Senator contends Petersburg, an economically struggling city with a declining population, needs the development and tax revenue more than Richmond.