Urban One the Winner in Richmond

Urban One, a primarily black-owned business from Washington D.C., is the winner of the Richmond casino sweepstakes, according to Mayor Levar Stoney (l.). The casino will be run by Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the owner of the Rosie’s slot emporiums in Virginia. A November referendum will now be held to approve the decision.

The grand prize of the five casinos approved by Virginia voters in 2019, the state capital of Richmond, was awarded last week when a committee of city officials settled on a proposal advanced by Urban One, a black-owned Washington D.C. company. Urban One, which owns and operates a network of 55 radio stations and the TV One cable network, has several other investors in the project, including Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which would be the operator of the casino. P2E owns Colonial Downs racetrack and the Rosie’s gaming emporiums across the central and southern regions of the state, which operate historic horse racing machines (HHRs). The company also owns casinos in Iowa and New York, as well as a casino license in Louisiana it is trying to relocate from Bossier City to Slidell.

Urban One will build a $600 million casino in South Richmond if voters give their OK in a November referendum. The resort includes a sportsbook, 200 hotel rooms, a 3,000-seat theater, 100,000 square feet of gaming space, and 12 bars and restaurants.

In addition to Urban One, the original applicants included Virginia’s Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the Cordish Companies and Bally’s Corp. Bally’s, Cordish and Urban One were the finalists and it seems to have come down to neighborhood support. Bally’s was eliminated first when its site was declared to be ineligible for casino development because it would require both state and federal approvals. The selection committee refused to allow Bally’s to find a new site. There was fierce opposition from neighborhood groups as well. It was that opposition that likely sank the Cordish bid as well. Conversely, the Urban One site is in a primarily industrial area with few surrounding neighborhoods.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney will present the decision to partner with Urban One to the City Council next week.

“The project will create over 1,000 good paying jobs, generate a significant amount of new revenue for the city, and establish an additional economic engine in South Richmond,” Stoney said. “I applaud the work of the evaluation panel in their vetting of the proposals and engaging the entire city throughout this project.”

In addition to mild support from neighborhood groups, it appears that Urban One’s bid was helped by the fact it is a majority black-owned business. It was a major goal of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus in the General Assembly when the 2019 bill was passed.

“It’s important that black folks begin to have a piece of the pie in these industries,” Delegate Lamont Bagby, chairman of the caucus.

The casino resort will be the first primarily black-owned casino since the late Don Barden owned a string of casinos stretching from Las Vegas to Indiana to Mississippi.

“One is thrilled the Richmond casino selection committee has chosen the best project with the best location and best team to develop a world-class entertainment destination in Richmond’s Southside,” said Alfred Liggins, CEO of Urban One. “Urban One and our diverse group of local investors are fully committed to creating good paying jobs with profit-sharing for employees, pathways to successful careers, and generating significant new tax revenues that can improve Richmond’s schools and fund community programs and infrastructure.”

The 2019 bill legalizing casinos allowed casinos in four other cities besides Richmond— Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville and Bristol. Richmond and Bristol were the only two cities to allow competitive bids—each were advised by the Convergence Strategy Group of New Orleans. Voters in all cities overwhelmingly approved the designated casino projects put forward by the city officials. While no polls have been taken, it is expected that Richmond voters will back the decision of Stoney’s administration.

As a result of the decision, stock in Urban One shot up 60 percent to close at $9.56 at the end of the week.