Home NewsCasino What a small city in central Virginia has done to attract the attention and ire of casino giants

What a small city in central Virginia has done to attract the attention and ire of casino giants

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Petersburg, Virginia was once a crucial railway town that was critical for the Civil War’s outcome. In the middle of the state, between North and South, the North won the battle to take the city. It is once again the centre of a conflict, this time over business.

The Petersburg City Council selected Cordish Companies as the casino operator and builder last Wednesday, 24 April. After years of debate, the decision was made after the city of Petersburg had been unable to determine whether it wanted a casino.

On 22 April 2020, the state will legalise retail sports betting, digital wagering and five casinos. Casino sites require local approval. Voters in Bristol, Danville Portsmouth and Norfolk will approve casinos on November 20, 2020.

Caesars Casino (Danville), Hard Rock Bristol (Bristol), and Rivers casino (Portsmouth), have agreements in place as of today. Norfolk is planning a fourth casino. The city had previously agreed to the partnership between the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and a commercial gaming company. It was originally planned that the tribe would purchase the land, and then put it in trust. The city and tribe have not approved any plan. A new vote is required if a licence for a casino has not been awarded by the year 2025.

Richmond’s voters did not vote on this issue until 2021, when they rejected Urban One’s proposal. In 2023, voters rejected it again.

Petersburg is trying to get a shot since 2022 at a Virginia new casino

Between, Petersburg also put its name into the hat. The Richmond re-vote prevented the Virginia legislature from allowing Petersburg to make a decision. Bally’s, Cordish Companies and others submitted proposals for a Petersburg Casino at that time.

The state legislature amended the casino 2020 bill two weeks ago. The voters in Petersburg will be able to determine if a casino is something they would like. On the ballot for November, a referendum will be held.

Petersburg’s city officials launched an RFP even before they were approved to appear on the ballot. They wanted a casino partnership. Bally’s and other bidders included the Cordish Companies as well as Rush Street, Penn Entertainment, Rush Street, the Warrenton Group, in collaboration with Delaware North.

At a town hall meeting on 14 April, each company made its offer. The city council held a closed-door meeting ten days later and announced that there would be no bids. Cordish was awarded the contract. Cordish had previously submitted a bid for the Richmond Casino, but was not selected.

Bally’s Virginia casino: City Manager didn’t write to Bally’s about new Virginia Casino

According to The Virginia Mercury, after the presentations, John Altman Jr, the city manager, signed a contract awarding Bally’s the new casino in Virginia. This letter never got sent.

According to The Mercury, the letter stated that the city planned “to move forward with the process of naming a operator for Bally’s”. The Mercury reported that the letter stated the city had plans to “move forward in the process of naming an operator with Bally’s”.

A resolution that cancelled the RFP said, “the manager’s letter of intent was not authorised formally by the City Council; it was not signed freely and voluntarily and not sent to Bally’s; instead it was signed and then returned to sender as a requirement to allow SB 628 proceed.”

The city of Petersburg cancelled the RFP for a casino and chose cordish in a non-bidding process.

Is your city in danger?

This letter was sent on the day the General Assembly was to vote whether to permit the referendum in Petersburg. It raises serious questions that, despite the fact the council had selected Bally’s in the RFP process, they ultimately chose Cordish Companies. However, the original law does not mandate a bidding process.

In the text of the Resolution, it is stated that Cordish Companies was recommended by two consultants. The resolution also states that Bally’s sent a letter to the city manager stating their intention to proceed. This letter included a demand that “the city must sign this letter or the bill will be voted down.” It does not say who wrote the letter but it is obvious that the resolution was written because the city did not want to lose the chance to vote whether to approve a casino.

Petersburg and its surroundings are clearly experiencing a different kind of conflict. The Siege of Petersburg ended the Civil War in 1864-1865. Who will be the winner of today’s turf war?

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