Petersburg Fields Five Responses to Casino Request for Proposal

The Petersburg City Council’s Request for Proposal (RFP) period that ended last month garnered five responses from companies interested in possibly partnering with the Virginia town on a casino resort development.

A rendering of The Cordish Companies’ pitch for an integrated resort casino in Petersburg. The odds are good that the Virginia city will be allocated a casino opportunity. (Image: The Cordish Companies)

State lawmakers this year voted to relocate the Richmond casino license about 25 miles south to Petersburg after residents in the capital twice voted against becoming a casino destination. It’s likely that Petersburg will soon join Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol in being designated as a casino host by state lawmakers.

Gov. Glenn Younkin (R) this week returned legislation to qualify the economically downtrodden city for a casino to the General Assembly. The governor asked the House of Delegates and Senate to remove the reenactment clause that would require state lawmakers to vote again on the Petersburg casino designation before a local referendum on the matter could be held.

Petersburg officials in February opened the casino RFP to gauge interest. The city received five responses, and several are nationally known casino developers and operators. 

Handful of Replies

The five companies that completed the RFP include The Cordish Companies, Penn Entertainment, Bally’s Corporation, Rush Street Gaming, and The Warrenton Group.

Penn Entertainment is based in Pennsylvania and is one of the nation’s largest regional casino developers and operators. The company primarily operates under the Hollywood casino brand.

Cordish is headquartered in Baltimore and in 2022 pitched Petersburg a $1.4 billion mixed-use development with an integrated resort casino. Cordish operates four Live!-branded casinos in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Bally’s is based in Rhode Island and is developing a $1.1 billion casino in downtown Chicago. The company is amid financial struggles, however, and was recently dealt several credit downgrades.

Rush Street Gaming is headquartered in Chicago and owns and operates Rivers Casino Portsmouth. The company also runs Rivers casinos in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York.

Warrenton is a Washington, D.C.-based real estate firm that says on its website it’s an “innovator” in developing “mixed-income and market-rate housing” and has developed over $1 billion in real estate. It has no casino holdings.

Cordish the Favorite?

State lawmakers in 2021 and 2022 mulled allocating Petersburg a casino license. During that time, Petersburg partnered with Cordish and the company pitched a $1.4 billion undertaking that was to be built over several phases and years.

The Virginia General Assembly ultimately folded on the Petersburg efforts during those legislative sessions. Petersburg faced criticism for not holding a competitive bid for its possible casino and seemingly striking a backroom deal with the Live! casino operator.

City officials are taking a more transparent approach this time around. Cordish believes it still presents the best opportunity for Petersburg, a city with a Black majority population.

Cordish has teamed up with NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith to make its case. Smith, a Norfolk native, played for the Buffalo Bills and Washington Commanders during his storied 19-year career.

Smith, who ventured into real estate after his playing career ended in 2003, says Petersburg officials need to pick a developer that has ties to Virginia.

“Outsourcing a project of this magnitude to a visiting developer with no ties or interest in uplifting the community will do little to fix the problem,” Smith said in a release from Cordish. “Changing outcomes in historically disenfranchised and underserved populations requires that we must be provided the opportunities to strengthen our communities from within.”

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