Posted on: October 29, 2021, 07:55h.
Last updated on: October 29, 2021, 09:26h.
Urban One CEO Alfred Higgins is ready to place the biggest bet in the multimedia conglomerate’s more than four-decade history. But he first needs the support of residents in Virginia’s Richmond capital.
Urban One CEO Alfred Higgins stands with his mother, Cathy Hughes, who founded the media conglomerate. Higgins is hoping voters in Richmond allow a casino resort to come to the Virginia city. (Image: Business Journal)
Higgins and Urban One want to build a $565 million casino resort next to the Philip Morris tobacco plant along I-95 south of the capital city. Voters in Richmond are being asked if they support the development through a ballot referendum. If a simple majority does, the project — dubbed ONE Casino + Resort — will move closer to becoming a reality.
Urban One is a publicly traded media conglomerate that caters to the Black community. It has no experience in the gaming industry, which is why it has brought on Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E), a California-headquartered firm that operates casinos in New York and Iowa.
P2E is additionally invested in Virginia by way of the Colonial Downs Racetrack and its associated Rosie’s Gaming Emporium pubs. The latter offer betting on historical horse racing (HHR) machines.
Path to Construction
Higgins sat down with Richmond BizSense to discuss what would happen following a ballot referendum in his favor. The CEO said the first step would be to apply for a gaming license through the Virginia Lottery. That agency is authorized to issue such a permit under legislation passed by the state last year and signed into law by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D).
Higgins said the next rung on the ladder to realization would be finalizing the land acquisition temporarily in place with Philip Morris. Urban One and the tobacco giant have come to provisional terms regarding 100 acres of largely vacant land near Walmsley Blvd. and Trenton Ave.
By April 1, we’ll start demolition of the site and site work. Then we will probably begin digging dirt and start full-fledged construction by July 1,” Higgins revealed of ONE Casino’s 2022 plans.
A referendum in support of the casino would provide the city with an immediate influx of money. Urban One says the company has placed $25.5 million in an escrow account. A simply majority backing the resort would send that money to Richmond.
As for funding the more than half a billion-dollar complex, Higgins said Urban One has been in public debt markets since 1997.
“Gaming resorts are most commonly financed in the public debt markets. We’re working with Credit Suisse and Bank of America, who’ve provided us financing commitments,” Higgins explained.
Virginia’s election is set for next Tuesday, November 2. Early voting has been underway since September. The big question for Higgins is, “Will the casino question pass?”
Similar referendums gained approval last year in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Danville. Polling has been minimal on the Richmond casino, causing much uncertainty regarding the question’s outcome.
Turnout should be strong, as Virginia is electing its next governor. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and businessman Glenn Youngkin are running neck and neck.
McAuliffe has issued his public support for the Richmond casino. Youngkin hasn’t publicly declared his position on the matter. However, the former co-CEO of private equity giant The Carlyle Group has experience in the gaming industry.
In 2018, Carlyle was part of the Caesars Entertainment takeover group, along with private equity giants Apollo Global Management, Blackstone Group, HarbourVest Partners, and TPG Global.