- Bally’s Corporation has submitted a proposal to develop a $650 million resort casino property in Richmond, Virginia.
- The working name of the property is ‘Bally’s Richmond Casino Resort’.
- The property would be in excess of 1.6 million square with a hotel, casino, sportsbook and retail outlets.
Few companies have been as active over the past year as Bally’s Corporation (NYSE: BALY). The former Twin River Worldwide Holdings has been on a shopping spree acquiring companies to bolster their position as a ‘one stop shop’ sports betting provider. That doesn’t mean that they’ve forgotten about brick & mortar casinos which are still a huge focus even as the COVID-19 pandemic hastens the transition to online and mobile betting.
Bally’s made this commitment to the traditional physical casino concept clear last week when they submitted a proposal to the City of Richmond (VA) to build a new casino resort. The proposed property under the working name ‘Bally’s Richmond Casino Resort’ will span more than 1.6 million total square feet and include all of the amenities you’d expect from a world class gaming resort–including a sportsbook.
Virginia has taken a page out of the more corrupt states’ approach to licensing gaming established during the casino boom of the late 1990’s. They’re offering a limited number of licenses–insuring that they’ll become extremely valuable political and financial bargaining chips–and juicing in all sorts of local special interests. Check out this laundry list of ‘community leaders’ and organizations that will ‘wet their beaks’ with the Bally’s casino:
To ensure that the project fosters significant opportunities for Richmond’s local organizations and minority-owned businesses, Bally’s has entered into strategic partnerships with multiple leaders of the greater Richmond community, including Willie Lanier, Sr. and the Lanier Family, Darrell Green, Founder of the Darrell Green Youth Foundation, and Warren Thompson, Founder, President and Chairman of the Board of Thompson Hospitality Corporation. Bally’s has also started discussions and begun forming partnerships with several small business enterprises including the Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council and the Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce, each of which has committed their support to the proposed project.
Certainly the City of Richmond will be happy just having some legit economic development and job creation in the city. Think again–this is a ‘pay to play’ deal and if Bally’s is selected for the project the first thing they’ll do is scratch out a one time $100 million ‘upfront payment’ to the City of Richmond for…uh….’reasons’ (emphasis added):
As detailed in the proposal, construction of the Bally’s Richmond is projected to take approximately 18 months, with an anticipated opening in 2024. Bally’s estimates that construction, which will supply Richmond with several years of contractor and sub-contractor work, will cost approximately $650 million, including a one-time, $100 million upfront payment to the City of Richmond after selection. Upon completion, Bally’s estimates that the property will attract approximately 3.7 million visitors annually, generating approximately 1,700 full-time equivalent (FTE) employment opportunities and approximately 2,000 total employees with FTE payroll. The project is also estimated to generate approximately $415 million in total gross revenue annually.
The gaming jurisdictions that do things right want to create a vibrant, competitive marketplace enjoy the benefits of a new and growing industry in their state. The ones that aren’t doing it right are easy to spot because their focus is on ‘what’s in it for them’ as opposed to creating a framework in which everyone prospers. This is why states like Virginia and Tennessee will never come close to realizing the potential of gaming in general and sports betting in particular. Meanwhile, states like New Jersey, Colorado and Iowa are seeing economic developments in their states from sports betting that benefit everyone.
Here’s some of the particulars of the Bally’s project:
Bally’s has proposed construction of the Bally’s Richmond on a 61-acre parcel located North of Powhite Parkway / East of Chippenham Parkway, on the western border of Richmond, Virginia. This central location will make the Bally’s Richmond an attractive destination, providing convenient highway and transit access, as well as connectivity to downtown Richmond, which is only six miles away, and neighboring suburbs. Bally’s carefully selected this wooded site located at the city’s edge because it will provide the greatest economic benefit to Richmond without causing any disruption to nearby communities.
Soo Kim, Chairman of Bally’s Corporation’s Board of Directors, had this to say about his company’s Richmond proposal:
“As a former director and the largest shareholder of Richmond-headquartered Media General, I have a strong interest in the growth, development and success of this great city. I am grateful for the opportunity to present this project to the City of Richmond, which will not only generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, but, more importantly, thousands of high paying jobs. The project also demonstrates Bally’s deep commitments to supporting local communities, partnering with local businesses and promoting diversity.”
George Papanier, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bally’s Corporation, added these comments:
“We are honored about the prospect of partnering with the City of Richmond as it embarks upon this exciting and unique adventure. Our proposal represents an unprecedented project for the Richmond community that will embrace and showcase the city’s existing culture and traditions in an environment positioned towards entertainment and leisure. The Bally’s Richmond would provide the city with a vibrant new attraction that is sure to turn Richmond into a dynamic tourist destination.”
“Bally’s brings a wealth of experience to this project. We have deep roots in land-based, regional casinos, demonstrated by our national, multi-property portfolio. We are a premier omnichannel gaming company with complete online sports betting and online gaming capabilities. With a database comprised of 15 million players that offers unparalleled cross-marketing opportunities, we are uniquely-situated to successfully develop and operate the Bally’s Richmond, and ensure future economic opportunity for the City of Richmond, its local businesses and its residents.”
This may be the most bizarre component of the press release:
a casino, curated to celebrate Richmond’s diversity, consisting of 2,500 slot machines, 90 table games, 30 poker tables, a High Limit Gaming area and VIP lounge;
I’ve been around the gaming industry all of my life and have lost count of how many casinos I’ve been in. I don’t even know what this means. I’m all for diversity in the hiring process and understand why Bally’s has to play along and juice in the local interests that get on the gravy train. I don’t even know how you ‘curate a casino’ to ‘celebrate diversity’.
The only way that gaming will succeed in any jurisdiction is for the state and local government to commit to it. They have to want to get into the gaming business and create an environment in which it can flourish. Unfortunately, there are still jurisdictions like Virginia that think gaming is some sort of magic pot of money from which they can extract revenue. Done right, gaming can be a great benefit on a number of levels. Done wrong, the only people that benefit are those that get juiced in by the powers that be.
In this type of environment, the regulatory and licensing framework sets the industry and those within it up for failure from the start. I really like what Bally’s has done with their sports betting product mix but don’t like their interest in this project. It sure sounds like another Resorts World Catskills fiasco waiting to happen and burn through a few hundred million dollars in the process.
At the time of publication, James Murphy has a long position in BALY.