Cordish Comebacks

Two blemishes on the otherwise stellar record of the Cordish Companies may be removed if a casino is permitted in Peterburg, Virginia, and an integrated resort (l.) is built in the Madrid region of Spain.

Cordish Comebacks

It was a week of second chances for the Cordish Companies. The organization returned to Spain with a different but improved version of its EuroVegas, with a plan for an integrated resorts near Madrid. The company was also selected as the potential developer of a casino project in Petersburg, Virginia just a year after a vote in Richmond demolished a previous plan that Cordish didn’t win.

Cordish Back in Madrid

Five years after being shown the door in Spain with its concept for EuroVegas, the Cordish Companies is back. The company, known for its “Live!” gaming and non-gaming developments in the U.S., has reached an agreement with the small town of Torres de Alameda, east of Madrid.

The mayor of Torres de Alameda, Carlos Sáez, is fully behind the project, which will include a variety of attractions including several smaller casinos, hotels, shopping areas, meeting and convention space, restaurants and much more. Sáez insists that Cordish is “in love” with the town and fully committed to the project.

But it will take more than the approval of the mayor of Torres de Alameda; it will require the OK from the Community of Madrid, a regional organization that rejected the first Cordish proposal in 2017 because it was too “American” and failed to promote the Spanish culture. Cordish is hoping this time will be different with one of the attractions being the world’s largest flamenco table. The project will cost an estimated $2.36 billion with profits of over $4 billion within the first five years.

With high unemployment in the Madrid region, it is hoped that the estimated 56,000 jobs that will be created could tip the scales. The project would be built on a 134-hectare (331 acres) plot of land in the Henares Corridor, which boasts a large permanent population as well as lots of international travel. The last would cost Cordish approximately $21.5 million to obtain.

The plan has reportedly been submitted to the Ministry of Economy of the Community of Madrid for approval, but a timeline is unknown at this time.

Battle Royal in Virginia

In Virginia, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) recently presented the results of a study indicating casinos in Petersburg and Richmond could coexist, but they also could take revenue from other Virginia casinos and from historical horse racing (HHR).

Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Janet Howell said to those in the crowd, “It’s likely to be a brawl and it’s likely to have every lobbyist in Richmond involved.”

The Virginia General Assembly in 2020 passed legislation allowing five cities to build casinos, pending voter approval. Casinos in Bristol, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Danville are moving forward. However, last November, Richmond voters rejected the $650 million casino proposed by Urban One and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which also owns Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in five cities, including Richmond, and plans to open two additional locations. Peninsula Pacific is now owned by Churchill Downs.

Richmond proposed holding a second referendum on the casino, but withdrew that plan after state Senator Joe Morrissey persuaded legislative budget negotiators to hold off on a second vote until JLARC presented its report, “Feasibility and State and Local Revenue Impacts of Locating a Casino in the City of Petersburg.”

At a press conference, Morrissey said, “If we have two casinos in Petersburg and Richmond, they would cannibalize each other. You would not get destination casinos. You would get two regional casinos. Petersburg might be smaller than Richmond, but I can assure you, we’re not going to be bullied by Richmond.” Morrissey added Petersburg needs the project more than Richmond, which “already had their chance.”

However, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said, “We’re pleased that the facts presented in the JLARC study reaffirm Richmond as the best choice for a Central Virginia casino. We look forward to further discussion on this important economic development opportunity, which would provide well-paying jobs and much-needed revenue to address priorities.”

The JLARC study indicates a Richmond casino would generate $249 million in net gaming revenue, compared to a Petersburg casino that would generate $140 million. Petersburg would generate $204 million in net gaming revenue and $12.2 million in local taxes if there were no Richmond casino. All of the projections refer to 2028, the first full operating year for either casino, according to the report.

The study also projected that by 2028, casinos in Petersburg and Richmond would reduce net gaming revenue by $55 million and lower local tax revenue by $1 million each in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Danville. The report noted Bristol would not be impacted.

However, two new casinos would boost state gaming revenue to $1.1 billion in 2028 when revenue from Bristol, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Danville casinos is included.

Additionally, the study said the Petersburg casino would decrease HHR revenue by $46 million; adding Richmond would lower revenue by $105 million.

Morrissey said he he’ll introduce legislation in 2023 that would let Petersburg hold a local referendum and block a Richmond casino for at least “a certain number of years.”

“We are not interested in two regional casinos,” he said. “We want a destination resort in Petersburg. If there are two casinos 25 miles from each other, they would cannibalize each other. They need the jobs in Petersburg. It’s just another side dish for Richmond. For Petersburg, it’s the main entree.”

Anticipating the project will move forward, the city of Petersburg recently announced it has selected the Cordish Companies as its casino development partner.

Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham commented, “An important part of our evaluation was to identify a development partner with a proven track record in developing and operating mixed-use and casino properties, a long history of revitalizing cities across the country, and strong community engagement practices. The development of a casino in Petersburg is a once in a generation opportunity to set the course for economic growth for decades to come. We are confident that we have selected the ideal partner in the Cordish Companies to bring to fruition our vision for Petersburg.”

Cordish Companies Chief Operating Officer Zed Smith said, “The Cordish Companies is honored and excited to have been selected by the city of Petersburg as development partners on this transformative project. We share Governor Glen Youngkin, Mayor Parham and the Petersburg city council’s commitment to create a world-class entertainment destination and mixed-use project with gaming that will generate millions of dollars in tax revenues and spinoff economic development, create thousands of new jobs and benefits to the local community and become a major new tourist destination for the city.”

Governor Youngkin’s office has made no comment on the JLARC report.

A temporary casino opened in Bristol earlier this year; a permanent casino is scheduled to open in 2024. The Portsmouth casino will open in 2023 and Norfolk and Danville casinos will debut in 2024.