City hires consultant to review proposals from casino developers

A rendering of a proposed $350 million casino complex near Manchester by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. (Courtesy of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe)

With its RFP process for a resort casino already underway, the city’s economic development arm has formally enlisted a consultant to help review the proposals.

The Richmond Economic Development Authority voted Thursday to hire New Orleans-based Convergence Strategy Group to help evaluate RFP responses from prospective casino developers, and assist in negotiations with those developers down the road.

The city issued the casino RFP on Dec. 28, and gave the EDA the authority to hire a consultant.

Economic Development Director Leonard Sledge said during Thursday’s meeting that the EDA is authorized to spend up to $120,000 on a consultant.

Sledge said they received proposals from five other prospective consultants, but said after reviewing them that he and his staff recommended Convergence.

The EDA approved the motion unanimously. Sledge said the exact terms of the agreement with Convergence are still to be determined by EDA Chairman John Molster and the authority’s legal counsel.

Per its website, Convergence offers planning services relating to “gaming, leisure, commercial, tribal and public development partners.” It lists several previous casino developments that it’s advised on.

The deadline for the casino RFP is Feb. 22. Multiple players expressed interest prior to the RFP being issued. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe was the first to publicly declare interest, announcing a plan for a $350 million resort casino near Manchester.

Others said prior to the RFP issuance that they were keeping a close watch on the city’s process,? ?including Urban One, a Maryland-based media company that targets Black audiences and previously helped develop the MGM National Harbor in its home state.

Colonial Downs Group, which operates Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, also is tracking casino happenings in the city, its COO Aaron Gomes confirmed to BizSense late last year.

The Cordish Cos., a Baltimore-based company that counts Norfolk’s commercial Riverside District among its dozens of holdings, is also eyeing Richmond. Its chairman and CEO David Cordish said in a statement last month that he is “following the process closely, and we will make our decision as more details become available.”

A mystery buyer also had been looking at a 17-acre plot along Arthur Ashe Boulevard owned by Bow Tie Partners for a “non-conforming use,” something sources say could be a casino.

BizSense editor Michael Schwartz contributed to this report.

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J. Sid del Cardayre
J. Sid del Cardayre
8 days ago

NO CASINO!
(Sorry, not sorry)

Frank Smith
Frank Smith
8 days ago

It’s very likely that the casino clientele will be the kind people who you want living next to you. Ask Detroit what casinos have done for them.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
8 days ago

I’m keeping an open mind on this issue, and I may vote against it completely. Or for it! but if there can be one casino, why not two? Why not three? Let them compete for the dollar. They are entertainment venues, so why give one a monopoly? That bid process just promotes corruption. If the door is open, open it wide enough that we’ll get the strongest array of entertainment.

Scott Fisher
Scott Fisher
8 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

The state law permits only one in the city, so no, the door isn’t open to more.

Hunter Wilson
Hunter Wilson
8 days ago
Reply to  Scott Fisher

Not so fast. The Pamunkey could use federal tribal rights to establish one regardless of outcome here. They agreed to this route but have other options if they lose the bid. So we could end up with 2 casinos if the city picks another operator but Pamunkey obviously have interest to win the bid here to control the market. They’ve already bought the land though – I’d imagine they would move forward regardless.

Last edited 8 days ago by Hunter Wilson
Michael Dodson
Michael Dodson
8 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

On casinos, yes I too will keep an open mind but on this contract here we go again. Firm selected (and agree City needs experts as casino expertise is a unique specialty) but EDA’s contract terms and conditions are not available. They will be finalized outside of the public view. I can see this ballooning up to half million dollar contract before it’s all said and done

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
8 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Simple. State law only allows us to have one.

John Gerencser
John Gerencser
8 days ago

What gets me is the city paying a consultant $120.000 to evaluate an RFP the city wrote. My guess is it is tailor made for the Pamunkey tribe. They should be able to evaluate their own RFP. What a waste of money.

Travis Jordan
Travis Jordan
5 days ago

Well I know the casino industry very well and I know the ins and outs of the industry. Richmond will only have 1 casino because its state law now the state can rectify it and have 2 in richmond if it came down to it. Rosies would have a very tough time competing with a real casino because Rosies is a gaming emporium not a real casino. I do know David Cordish from Live Casino in Maryland and he is a very nice guy so im hoping Live casino comes to Richmond rather than the tribe. If the Tribe goes… Read more ?

Kevin Randesi
Kevin Randesi
4 days ago

“Economic Development Director Leonard Sledge said during Thursday’s meeting that the EDA is authorized to spend up to $120,000 on a consultant.”

Just think of the millions the City of Richmond (this plus other projects) has wasted on things like this. And the consultant likely has some sort of political ties so that it’s nothing more than a kickback.

In all seriousness – couldn’t that money be put to better use – like helping the citizens of RVA?