Petersburg VA Casino Pick Questioned by Local Legislators

Petersburg, VA – One week following the decision of the Petersburg City Council to award the rights to Cordish Companies to begin establishing a casino within their jurisdiction, a letter of intent from the City Manager surfaced, noting that there was initial intent to choose a different company with the casino project.

According to reports, the City Council was supposed to pick Bally’s, one of the finalists for the Petersburg casino project, since the casino operator has a better relationship with the hospitality union that would represent workers there than any of the other four vendors. 

However, the General Assembly allegedly pressured local legislators to sign the deal with Cordish Companies, otherwise the project will be rejected altogether. This came at the heels of the decision to remove Richmond as a casino location previously by removing its casino site eligibility.

The city initially put out a request for proposals and held a public town hall featuring presentations from the five finalists. However, the City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to “cancel” the competitive process and select Cordish as the winner.

Cordish was chosen over Bally’s, The Warrenton Group, Penn Entertainment, and Rush Street Gaming. Rush Street operates Rivers Casino in Portsmouth, and was gearing up to open a second Rivers in Petersburg.

What’s the Local Legislators Response?

The selection process has sowed severe confusion about the city’s intentions and whether outside forces were pushing local officials to partner with a particular casino developer. 

Petersburg spokeswoman Joanne Williams stated in the full text of a resolution that the City Council unanimously approved on Wednesday night demanded that a letter was sent to the city needed to be signed or else the General Assembly would block legislation allowing Petersburg to pursue a casino. 

“[A] letter of intent was received by the City Manager’s Office to proceed with Bally’s as the City’s preferred casino gaming operator with a demand that the City sign the letter of intent or face the bill being voted down or indefinitely tabled,” the council resolution says.

Moreover, according to the resolution, the letter was not signed “freely and voluntarily,” and was only “returned to the sender.” City Manager John Altman Jr. only signed the letter “to enable the bill to continue in the General Assembly.”

The resolution goes on to say that Petersburg’s legal counsel always “questioned the propriety” of using an RFP process to select a casino operator.

Senator Lashrecse Aird was one of the sponsors of the bill authorizing the Petersburg casino, blasted the lawmakers for choosing a casino operator that wasn’t as labor friendly,

“Choosing to move forward with a developer without receiving a public commitment to good jobs is deeply concerning… Any economic development project of this scale proposed in the City of Petersburg, or our Commonwealth, should bring wealth and good jobs to the workers in our community,”  Aird added.

Aird also stated that the city’s actions demonstrate the ongoing struggle within the city’s governance in the pursuit of what the citizens of Petersburg truly deserve, which is an economic development project that they have a say in and truly benefits all citizens.

Unite Here, a hospitality workers’ union that has advocated for the Petersburg casino project and represents 100,000 casino workers in the United States and Canada, has been vocal about Bally’s positive treatment of their workers. 

Last Updated on by jonathan r

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