When Virginia legalized casino gambling in Richmond, it was only a matter of time before plans to build were finalized. And that time appears to be now. The state is weighing at least four casino proposals at the start of 2021, with the expectation that one of them will eventually be approved to break ground. What does it all mean? We break it all down here.
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It wasn't until recently, though, that the state of Virginia approved Richmond for on-site gambling activity. In fact, it was only a year ago. And while you might think it would take some time to get the ball rolling, the process has moved quickly. As it stands, roughly four months after getting the green light, at least four casino proposals are being reviewed by Richmond, Virginia.
The parties involved in this dead heat: The Cordish Companies, Bally's Corp, Urban One, and the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. Other proposals could potentially come in, but these are the four main submissions that came in prior to the deadline, and it's expected that one of them will win.
Which will it be? And what will it mean for Richmond? And the legalization of gambling in the United States overall? Let's get to it.
Impact of Casino Gambling in Richmond
First and foremost, we need to take stock of how much corporations and the Pamunkey Indian Tribe are prepared to invest in a Richmond Casino. We've compiled the outline of each proposal from a piece written by Michael Martz of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Details of Richmond Casino Proposals
- The Cordish Companies: A $600 million casino resort proposed on the 17-acre Movieland property by a Maryland developer that already operates casinos under the Live! brand in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa, and Hollywood, Florida. One of the investors is former NFL star defensive lineman Bruce Smith, a Virginia Beach businessman.
- Bally's Corp: A $650 million investment on a 61-acre property at the northeast quadrant of the Powhite and Chippenham parkways in South Richmond. The project’s investors include two former NFL greats— linebacker Willie Lanier and defensive back Darrell Green.
- Urban One: A $517 million project proposed by a Washington media company with radio stations in Richmond and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based owner of Colonial Downs racetrack and Rosie’s gaming emporiums. Their resort would be on a slab of property currently owned by Philip Morris USA at Commerce Road and Walmsley Boulevard. Urban One would be the majority investor in what it says would be the only majority Black-owned casino in the country.
- Pamunkey Indian Tribe: A $350 million project proposed at the 5000 block of Commerce Road, about four miles south of the property the tribe originally proposed 13 months ago.
Which Proposal Will Win?
Bally's has to be the early favorite based on the size of its investment and the company's experience operating casinos. They already have their hands in Las Vegas and Atlanta City/New Jersey, and stability is important when opening up a new gambling site that doesn't already have a built-in customer base from other surrounding casinos.
At the same time, the Pamunkey Tribe has to be up there, too. Their project is cheaper, which should make for fast completion, and they have a preexisting relationship with the local and state governments.
That's not licensed to rule out Urban One or The Cordish Companies. They're working with real cash flow, and Richmond might prefer the first casino to be less of a spectacle and be put up on smaller slabs of land. If they don't want the pomp and circumstance a Bally's establishment would provide, going with any one of the other three is their best option.
Potential Revenue from Richmond Casino
Though Virginia resisted previous attempts to put a casino in Richmond, it's no secret as to why the state relented now: revenue.
States generate a ton of income from the taxes casinos pay. And while putting one in Richmond won't put Virginia on the same level as Nevada or Pennsylvania, which take in billions of dollars in revenue each year, it will add a ton of funds to their government at both the local and state levels. The addition of legal on-site sportsbooks alone could add nearly half-a-billion dollars to the table on an annual basis, according to a December report from Cision.
When that much money's involved, it's safe to say the process will be expedited. This is more true than ever on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic. State governments have lost a ton of expected income due to how much of the economy has halted.
Adding a casino not only jacks up the cash flow during better times, but it also safeguards the state against similar extreme circumstances. Most casinos will usually have a mobile app that offers online gaming and sportsbook tickets. Customers will be able to use those and wager funds even if they don't have access to the physical establishment.
More States to Follow?
One question always asked whenever new casino and sportsbook legislation passes is the impact it will have on states that have yet to legalize them. In this instance specifically, a Richmond casino figures to have a limited impact on the discussion.
Too many of the states around it—Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia—have already made the leap, and a Richmond casino isn't going to influence the thinking of lawmakers in New York, who implemented casinos long ago and are still trying to push through sports-betting legislation.
Still, it's never a bad thing to see different states branch out when it comes to different forms of gambling. Close to half of the United States is already in line with Virginia. The more often these dominoes fall, and the more casinos that open up, the closer we'll get to universal legalization.
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