The CEO of Urban Once, Alfred Higgins, will be placing his biggest bet on his multimedia company’s history by investing in a casino. But, Richmond voters have to first vote in support to have a casino in the city.
Higgins, through his company, wants to build a casino worth over $565 million adjacent to the Philip Morris tobacco plant on the I-95 south of Richmond. First, voters have to decide about the development of a casino through a ballot referendum. If the majority vote in support, the casino going by ONE Casino + Resort will become a reality.
Urban One has no experience in the gaming industry. It has publicly operated as a media company catering to the Black community. But, it has brought in Peninsula Pacific Entertainment which is based in California and operates casinos in Iowa and New York, to help with its new venture.
Peninsula Pacific is also invested in Virginia at the Colonial Downs Racetrack partnered with Rosie’s Gaming Emporium pubs. The gaming Emporium offers bets on historical horse racing machines.
Higgins’ Plans Once the Ballot Referendum Favors Him
Talking to Richmond BizSense, Higgins detailed what would happen when Richmond voters vote in his favor. The Urban One CEO said the company would first apply for a gaming license through the Virginia Lottery. The board is mandated under legislation passed by Virginia last year and signed by Governor Ralph Northam to issue gaming licenses.
The second step Higgins would do is finalizing land acquisition with Philip Morris. Urban One and the tobacco plant owner have formed provisional terms about 100 acres of the vacant land close to Walmsley Beloved and Trenton Avenue. Higgins also said that he hoped demolition would start by April 1, 2022, followed by digging dirt and starting construction by July 1, 2022.
By supporting the ballot referendum, Richmond would immediately get some money. Already, Urban One has placed around $25.5 million in an escrow account. If most voters support having a casino in the city, the escrow will immediately release the money to Richmond.
Alfred went ahead to explain where the company would get money to build over half a billion-dollar property. He said the company has been in the public debt market since 1997. Alfred noted that gaming resorts were often financed in the public debt markets. In that line, he said the upcoming project would be financed by Bank of America and Credit Suisse, who has already provided the company with financing pledges.
Virginia is set for an election on Tuesday, November 2, 2021. Early voting has been going on since September. During this election day, Richmond voters will also decide about the ONE Casino project.
Meanwhile, Higgins wonders whether the casino question will pass. Last year, other cities in Virginia, including Danville, Bristol, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, passed similar referendums. Considering there has been less polling in Richmond, it is challenging to predict the referendum’s outcome.
But, considering the Virginia election is happening on the same day as the referendum, the turnout might be huge. Governor Terry McAuliffe has already publicly supported a Richmond casino. His competitor Glenn Youngkin has yet to declare his position on the issue.
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