Petersburg Casino Debacle Heats up amid Potential Lawsuits, Corruption Allegations

Virginia has faced constant allegations of corruption and misuse of power as it has tried to expand its casino industry, and the latest attempt is no different. After the Petersburg City Council chose The Cordish Companies as its casino developer, allegedly against the wishes of the General Assembly, the political battles are just beginning.

A view of the courthouse in Petersburg, VA, from the air. (Source: Shutterstock)

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Casino workers union Unite Here has announced its intention to file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. This action comes in response to the Petersburg City Council's abrupt decision to halt the competitive bidding process for the casino project.

The City Council held a closed-door session on April 24 that lasted over an hour and a half. They claimed it was for legal advice on the casino project. However, Unite Here believes this was illegal because the public wasn't informed about a major decision made during that meeting.

Following the closed session, in a surprising move, the Council canceled a request for casino proposals issued earlier in February and directly chose Cordish as the operator. This decision was made without any explanation or even reading the official resolution. The council members then left abruptly, leaving reporters and the few attendees confused.

Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham has clapped back over the union's threat to sue the city. He told The Progress-Index that Petersburg followed all of the rules and procedures it had to when awarding the license to Cordish. Parham added that the city is ready to defend itself in court if necessary.

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Senator Denies Involvement in Coercion

As the union battle is taking place on one side, Senator Lashrecse Aird is mounting a defense on another. As the representative of Petersburg, she has denied any involvement in trying to coerce the city at the state level.

The senator's narrative contrasts sharply with the version of events presented by city officials, who allege that Aird's demands led to the signing of a controversial letter under duress—a letter that seemingly favored Bally's over Cordish. This divergence in narratives has fueled an ongoing debate over the integrity of the casino selection process and the role of political influence therein.

Aird's position is clear: she asserts that the accusations are a distortion of the truth, aimed at rewriting history to cast her actions in a negative light. This stance is particularly significant given the sensitive nature of the casino selection process, which continues to be marred by claims of political pressure and backdoor dealings.


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