Casino Candidates Offer Sweeteners to Get Richmond License

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Not long ago there were six casino proposals for only one Richmond license. That number is now reduced to three and it seems like each of the remaining casinos vying for that solitary gambling license is doing its best to get it. Even if it means sweetening the deal.

The Candidates

The three finalists that are still in the race include Urban One, the largest Black-owned radio and one of the largest Black-owned businesses in the US; Bally’s Corp. a casino developer; and Baltimore’s The Cordish Companies, a high-profile real estate developer.

All of these casino candidates would like to see their projects approved by Richmond authorities. As a result, they have done their best to tell locals how many new jobs their new casinos will create, as well as what their casinos would do to include Black investors.

However, as enticing as those new job posts and revenue figures may sound, Richmond officials might need a little convincing to give the green light. That’s why each casino candidate has drawn up a list of “sweeteners” to make its proposal stand out. Let’s look at what each of the three remaining candidates is offering.

Urban One

Urban One’s proposal is of a US$517 million casino resort. It will include a high-end hotel with 150 rooms and a state-of-the-art casino with popular table games, slot machines, and a sports betting section.

Urban One promises that around 50 Black investors and businessmen will be involved in the project and that 40 per cent of the casino and hotel suppliers will be minorities.

To make the proposal even more enticing, Urban One offers the following sweeteners:

  • US$60 million upfront payment to the city;
  • Additional US$6 million every year to the city from casino revenues;
  • US$3 million a year to non-profit organizations
  • US$2.5 million in free advertising on Urban One’s media network.

If Urban One’s casino gets a license, it will open 1,500 jobs and casino workers will get an average salary of $48,000 a year. It will be possible for employees to also be part owners and to be eligible for a US$3,000 to US$5,000 profit-sharing bonus at the end of each year.

Bally’s Corp.

Bally’s casino proposal is a US$650 million project that includes a high-end 250-room hotel and an enormous casino. The proposal also includes a large events space with a concert venue that can accommodate up to 3,000 guests. The casino, hotel, and events space will get most of their power from solar energy.

To get its project across the finish line Bally’s is offering the following sweeteners:

  • US$100 million upfront payment;
  • Undisclosed share of gambling revenue;
  • US$3 million a year to a Richmond small business program.

Once completed, Bally’s hotel-casino will employ 2,000 people and will pay them US$52,000 on average or a minimum of US$15 an hour. Bally’s also has Black investors, including football legend Willie Lanier Sr.

The Cordish Companies

The Cordish Companies is planning to replace Richmond’s Bow Tie movie theatre with its casino-hotel. The name of the new casino will be Live! and if the initial proposal is anything to go by, it will be an instant favourite for Richmond locals. It will be a US$600 million development and will feature a 330-room hotel, entertainment areas, and lots of restaurants in addition to the high-end casino.

To sweeten the deal, The Cordish Companies is not offering an upfront payment but is proposing the following inducements:

  • US$30 million a year in gaming tax revenues (the city projects to get US$20 million);
  • A donation of US$13.3 million to fund community services (education, healthcare, infrastructure).

In addition to this, the Baltimore real estate developer also pledges to include Black investors into the casino’s ownership structure with a 50 per cent stake. Once the casino opens, it will employ 3,000 people and pay them an average salary of US$60,000 a year.

It’s fair to say that this will be a neck and neck race and that all three casino proposals will feel like they have a chance to top the podium. However, only one will be able to do so. And its chances of success may ride on the quality of sweeteners it has offered.

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