Cordish Virginia Casino Plans under Wraps amid 'Political Theater' Claims

The city of Petersburg's decision to approve the $1.4 billion casino proposal from The Cordish Companies has sparked a complex debate over transparency and the public's right to information. This move came after the city's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officer declared that the document would not be released due to the cancellation of the competitive bidding process and the absence of a contract award to Cordish.

From left to right, Blake, Jon, David, Reed Cordish, the leaders of The Cordish Companies. (Source: The Cordish Companies)

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The Cordish Companies, known for its extensive experience in developing and operating casinos and entertainment districts, has been tentatively selected by Petersburg as the potential developer for this ambitious project. The selection was part of a larger economic development initiative aimed at revitalizing the city's economy.

Related: Petersburg Casino Debacle Heats up amid Potential Lawsuits, Corruption Allegations

However, the process leading to Cordish's selection has been shrouded in controversy. The Petersburg City Council's unanimous decision to choose Cordish was made after a closed session, with little to no public discourse on the matter. This lack of transparency has raised questions among citizens and watchdog groups, who argue that the public deserves to know the details of such a significant economic proposal. The Cordish proposal, which includes a casino, a 200-room hotel, and an event center, is expected to be a transformative project for Petersburg, with an investment totaling $1.4 billion over 15 years.

Media outlet The Virginia Mercury tried to get access to the offer Cordish had submitted, including details about costs, the impact the development will have on the community, construction timeframes and more. However, Petersburg's FOIA officer, Shaunta' Beasley, rejected the request. She told the media outlet that, because Cordish has not officially been registered as the winner of the casino project, the city doesn't have to comply.

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Petersburg's Political Theater

The controversy took another turn when it was revealed that a week before Cordish's selection, a letter of intent had been signed by the city manager indicating a preference for Bally's Corporation, another contender for the casino project. This document, however, was never sent, adding another layer of complexity to the situation. The city council later stated that the letter was not authorized and did not reflect a voluntary decision by the Petersburg government.

These attempts to blame the General Assembly and portray themselves as coerced into anything by me or otherwise is merely political theater and a distraction from this council’s true intentions to move forward with no process, no public engagement, and proceed in the least transparent way imaginable.

Sen. Lashresce Aird in a statement sent to The Progress-Index

Amidst this backdrop, Sen. Lashresce Aird has faced allegations of attempting to influence the city's decision in favor of Bally's. Aird has vehemently denied these claims, labeling them as "political theater" and asserting that her involvement was misconstrued. She has emphasized that her actions were in line with her duty to represent the interests of her constituents and to ensure a fair and transparent process.


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