BILL OF FARE: Former NFL defensive end Bruce Smith is behind a proposed $1.4 billion casino project in Petersburg, Virginia. (Courtesy Venue)


Bruce Smith Enterprise, led by NFL Hall of Famer and Virginia native Bruce Smith, and the Cordish Companies have announced a $1.4 billion Live!-branded gaming and entertainment district anchored by Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia, including a 3,000-capacity music venue.

The plan, submitted in response to a request for proposal issued by the City of Petersburg, Virginia, is expected to generate billions in economic benefits and create thousands of jobs. The proposed project is subject to approval in the 2024 general election.

Positioned to impact Virginia’s economic landscape, the joint venture is a partnership with a minority-owned business enterprise as a co-development partner. Cordish Companies has developed several Live! districts across the country including Kansas City Live!, Live! at the Battery in Atlanta, Texas Live! in Arlington and Power Plant Live! in Baltimore, Maryland. The company also developed Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos properties in Hollywood and Tampa, Florida.

Transforming Petersburg into a tourism and live entertainment center was central to the overall strategy.

“Our Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh entertainment venues are great examples of mixed-use spaces,” said Suzanne Trout, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Cordish Gaming. “We like to create an entertainment venue that provides maximum flexibility to host a variety of types of entertainment and events, from boxing to headliners to consumer shows.”

The Baltimore-based company plans to develop the casino resort in three phases on roughly 80 acres along Interstate 95 in the southeastern corner of the city.

The first phase of the project would include a 230,000-square-foot casino, a 200-room hotel, dining and retail businesses. It would take about two years to complete, beginning with receiving state approval of Petersburg as an eligible host city to allow casino gaming, tied to a voter referendum in November.

Adding a 3,000-cap. live venue is part of the overall plan. “We like this number in that it gives us an ability to do a range of acts from A, B, and C-levels that would appeal to different genres and to different consumers,” Trout said.

The room set up will be able to accommodate floor seating, risers and general admission.

“Traditionally casinos have done mostly seated shows or hybrid shows, but we are finding there are an increasing number of acts that are returning to more GA events,” said Trout.

The booking philosophy would be a combination of local and national acts. “Traditionally, we have used a booking partner for our larger venues,” explained Trout. “For our local entertainment in lounges and events, we want to use as much local talent as possible. We love working with talent that exists in the community.”

Food and beverage offerings would incorporate many of Live! Hospitality and Gaming’s proprietary brands from the Prime Rib, a Zagat-rated No. 1 steakhouse, to Luk Fu, which features chefs from Japan, Thailand, Korea, China and Vietnam.

“Additionally, our plan is to seek some local food partnerships and make sure we are offering an authentic food and beverage experience,” Trout added.

Live music is part of the overall casino/resort experience.

“We like to extend the entertainment experience by offering similar music genres in our lounges following a show,” explained Trout. “It’s a great way to give our guests a 360-degree experience of a great night out. We also offer special show packages and menus in our dining outlets that can both expedite an elegant dinner before the show and again, provide that special night out.”

Situated 21 miles south of Richmond, Petersburg has a population of 33,400 with 77% being Black residents, according to the 2020 census.

“In Petersburg proper, there is no direct competition for a large entertainment venue,” said Trout. “At Live!, we believe in using entertainment as an attraction for both entertainment seekers as well as known gamers and create a schedule with a variety from revue shows, comedy, headliners, tribute acts, boxing and MMA.”