Published on: December 14, 2022, 01:09 am.
Last update: December 14, 2022, 01:23.
Baltimore-based Cordish Companies hopes one of its next major development projects will come through Virginia, in the city of Petersburg.
The Petersburg City Council unveiled Cordish’s pitch for Petersburg on Tuesday night. The operator of Live! of Maryland and Pennsylvania says it is willing to spend $1.4 billion to bring a casino and resort destination to Petersburg, located about 20 miles south of the capital Richmond.
Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia, as the project is called, would be completed in several phases of development. The scheme, if approved by state and local voters, would occupy about 80 acres of land at Wagner Road off Interstate 95.
The initial phase includes a 230,000-square-foot casino floor, a 200-room hotel, more than a dozen restaurants, a resort pool, a fitness center and a customizable event center.
Zed Smith, chief operating officer for Cordish, said the casino could be a “catalyst for change” in Petersburg.
[Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia] will transform the city by creating a thriving entertainment and hospitality attraction for the entire region and provide first-class amenities for the local community, while generating secondary economic development, creating thousands of new jobs for area residents and substantial opportunities for local, minority, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses,” Smith said.
Cordish Casino’s current portfolio includes Live! Casino and Hotel Maryland, live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia and Live! Casino in Pittsburgh.
Live afterwards! The Virginia Casino & Hotel expansion phases, which are included in the total proposed budget of $1.4 billion, would increase the property’s footprint to include a total of 500 guest rooms and bring more than 1,300 residential units to the property. Additional retail shopping and entertainment and dining options would be included in later expansions.
Many obstacles remain
Petersburg City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to select The Cordish Companies as its preferred game development partner. But while local officials and the casino company want to build the resort, gambling is currently illegal in Petersburg.
Virginia legalized commercial gambling in 2020, but only in the economically troubled cities of Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol and Danville. Each city can only move forward with a casino with the local blessing of their voters through a referendum. All but Richmond held successful referendums that authorized a casino.
Richmond city officials hope to ask their voters again about a casino in the future. State Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond, Petersburg), whose district includes Petersburg and parts of the capital metro area, believes the people have spoken and Richmond’s casino opportunity should be reallocated to nearby Petersburg.
For Petersburg to consider authorizing the Cordish casino plan, state lawmakers would first have to qualify the area as a permitted gaming venue. Petersburg would then have to win voter approval.
Questionable bidding process
Even if the Virginia General Assembly and Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) were to redraft the 2020 gaming bill to qualify Petersburg, legal concerns could be raised about Petersburg’s decision to partner with Cordish.
Unlike the other four Virginia cities moving forward with casinos that held competitive bidding rounds for opportunities in a public and transparent manner, Petersburg negotiated behind closed doors.
City officials revealed last night that instead of forming a committee to evaluate proposals from interested casino developers, Petersburg contracted a third party to submit the applications. Lisa Speller, whose Speller Consulting Group was paid up to $10,000 a month by the city for consulting services, says she reviewed several submissions before settling on Cordish.