The following appeared at richmond.com on February 21 and was written by Michael Martz.
A Black-owned Washington media company is teaming with the owner of a potential rival to propose a $517 million casino resort and live music theater in South Richmond on property now owned by Philip Morris USA, one of the city’s biggest employers.
Urban One, owner of four radio stations targeting predominantly Black audiences in Richmond, will announce on Tuesday that it is partnering with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the owner of Colonial Downs Group and a growing chain of gaming emporiums in Virginia, to operate the casino as part of the 300,000-square-foot complex, according to a source close to the project.
Urban One plans to build the project on 100 acres owned by Altria Group Inc., the Henrico County-based owner of Philip Morris, at the Bells Road exit on Interstate 95, where Walmsley Boulevard meets Commerce Road just south of the tobacco company’s signature cigarette manufacturing complex.
Urban One, operating as Radio One, owns more than 50 radio stations in over a dozen markets along the East Coast as far south as Texas and in Ohio and Indiana. Its FM stations in Richmond include WKJS-Kiss Richmond; ESPN Richmond; WCDX-iPower Richmond; and WPZZ-Praise Richmond.
“An important part of this process is allowing the broader Richmond community to share its perspective,” Callahan said.
The project would include about 90,000 square feet of casino gaming space, a 150-room hotel, up to a dozen restaurants and lounges, and a 3,000-seat entertainment venue that could host up to 200 live music events a year, according to the source. The complex also would feature outdoor recreational amenities in an open area that would be bounded by Bells Road, Trenton Avenue and CSX railroad tracks that separate the industrial area from the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor.
The Pamunkey tribe is seeking state licenses for casinos in Richmond and Norfolk, where it has an agreement to develop a resort along the Elizabeth River downtown. The tribe has preferential treatment under the state law because of its tribal gaming rights in a broad swath of its ancestral territory.
Early last year, the tribe proposed a casino resort on land it is purchasing along Commerce Road at Ingram Avenue, closer to downtown Richmond than the Urban One site and reached from I-95 at the Maury Street exit. The tribe also has an agreement to buy property at Jefferson Davis Highway and Walmsley for a workforce training center that it proposed to convert to community uses later.
But the proposal was not well-received by the predominantly Black neighborhoods around the proposed casino.
Jay Smith, a spokesman for the Pamunkey tribe, said Friday that it intends to submit a proposal for a new location Monday, but declined to say where.
The mayor’s press office said last week that it will release the names of the parties that submitted proposals and their proposed sites soon after the submission deadline Monday.
The company owns a horse track and historical horse racing gaming parlor in New Kent County, as well as Rosie’s gaming emporiums in South Richmond, Hampton, Roanoke County and Dumfries, a town in Prince William County that could have a much larger gaming operation under the state casino law.
The law awards Colonial Downs additional gaming terminals — they look like slot machines but operate on historical horse racing results — as compensation for competition from casinos in up to five cities.
Rosie’s opened a modest emporium with 150 gaming terminals in Dumfries early this year, but Colonial Downs announced plans last week to build a $389 million gaming resort in the town that would feature as many as 1,650 machines, a 200-room hotel and eight restaurants.
The project would be built on 79 acres that includes a debris landfill along I-95 in Northern Virginia. Colonial Downs said the landfill would close 11 years early and become recreational space next to the gaming resort.
Peninsula Pacific, based in Los Angeles, owns and operates casinos in Sioux City, Iowa, and Waterloo, N.Y., in addition to the Colonial Downs horse track and Rosie’s gaming emporiums in Virginia.
Gomes added: “We look forward to maintaining that partnership as the city moves forward with any additional gaming initiatives.”