PETERSBURG, Va. -- Petersburg Mayor Samuel Parham said he toured the city with owners of a casino after the proposal was rejected by Richmond voters last week.
Parham told CBS 6 on Tuesday, representatives with Urban One visited Petersburg and a site off Interstate 95 that could host a new casino and resort.
“We’ve been blessed. For some reason, word has gotten out and we’ve had several of the casino guys who were in Richmond down in Petersburg looking now,” Parham explained. “We are excited to have them and definitely explore the opportunity to be a site here in Petersburg.”
Richmond was the only locality of five Virginia cities to reject their casino proposal. One Casino and Resort would’ve been built on the city’s Southside.
City leaders, like Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, campaigned for the project touting its potential to bring new jobs and a half-billion dollars to the city over the next 10 years.
“They were looking at giving $50 million a year over 10 years. That’s 50% of our budget right now, so it’s a potentially huge opportunity for the city of Petersburg,” Parham said.
Parham said representatives from other casino companies have also reached out interested in building a casino in his city located about 20 minutes south of Richmond.
“It can transform the City of Petersburg. We have a tremendous amount of needs here with education. We need some new schools, we need some new infrastructure, new courts, new housing and that right there can be a tremendous jump start to our city,” he stated.
Virginia State Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) said he jumped at the opportunity to bring a new casino to Petersburg when he saw the referendum fail on Election Day.
“While I was disappointed that Richmond didn’t get it, I absolutely believe to my core that Richmond’s loss is Petersburg's gain,” Morrissey said.
Morrissey's district encompasses Richmond's Southside in addition to Petersburg.
The Democrat has asked legislative services to draft new legislation allowing Petersburg to obtain one of the state’s five gaming licenses.
The bill requires approval from the General Assembly, Virginia's governor, Petersburg City Council and the majority support of voters in a referendum. Morrissey believed Petersburg would welcome the project.
“For those people that say, ‘Well, I don’t want a casino.’ We are already past that point. People are going to gamble,” he stated. “They’ll either go to Maryland, or Pennsylvania, or West Virginia or Atlantic City.”
CBS 6 spoke to several Petersburg voters who were for and against a new casino. Some voters were opposed to a casino altogether concerned about gambling and possible violence.
Lynne Stanley worried if enough city resources exist in the event of an emergency on the site.
“I don’t think the infrastructure is there for a casino,” she said. “I don’t even know if it can support Petersburg.”
A request for comment from Urban One was not returned as of Wednesday afternoon.