49-44 vote

Virginia: Petersburg casino plan passes House; bill now set to face long odds at Senate

Rendering for Cordish's proposed casino project for Petersburg.
Reading time 1:32 min

Petersburg’s casino bill was passed Tuesday in the Virginia House of Delegates after securing preliminary approval earlier in the week. The legislation would enable voters to decide whether to approve a proposed $1.4 billion casino project from the Cordish Companies through November's ballot. It passed on a 49-44 vote with one abstention, sending it to the Virginia Senate. 

Virginia lawmakers passed years ago legislation to allow five cities to become eligible for a casino. While four of them approved the plan, Richmond, the fifth city, shoot it down at the ballots, which led Petersburg to join the race. Now, both cities angle for the last spot.

Del. Kim Taylor, proponent of the bill, said Cordish’s casino would be a “once-in-a-lifetime economic project” for Petersburg and create jobs that would offer more than double the per capita income in the city. Her proposal would also block Richmond from getting a second chance at a project.

However, Del. Mark D. Sickles said the legislation presented a “zero-sum game” by stopping Richmond from holding another casino ballot referendum, which voters narrowly rejected in 2021. He also raised doubt that the measure would pass through the Virginia Senate after an identical proposal from state Senator Joe Morrisey failed to advance out of the chamber, reports WRIC.

Sickles said he was open to possibly allowing both cities to pursue casino referendums, an option that a Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study said could happen. However, Cordish COO Zed Smith told a Virginia Senate panel that the $1.4 billion project proposed by the company would not be able to move forward as proposed with a Richmond casino. 

The Petersburg casino proposal has a price tag of twice the budget for Richmond’s Urban One project, and would be built in multiple phases if approved by city voters. It would be a 4 million-square-foot resort on the south side next to the Interstate 95 interchange at Wagner Road, called to include a casino, hotel, resort pool and center for events such as live music. 

Taylor further revealed Cordish plans to bring jobs paying around $60,000 annually in wages to a city where the average yearly salary is slightly above $26,000, which she deemed as “an incredible opportunity” for the city of Petersburg and its residents. 

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