As Richmond, Va., plans its future in casino gaming, on May 20, the Cathy Hughes-founded Urban One Inc. saw its proposal for ONE Casino + Resort accepted by the city’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel. If ONE is approved by voters in November, it will become the first Black-owned casino since those operated by Don Barden, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Richmond, Va., Mayor Levar Stoney’s office announced that it supports the decision.
“ONE Casino + Resort presents a tremendous opportunity to develop a resort casino project in Richmond,” Stoney said. “The project will create over 1,000 good-paying jobs, generate a significant amount of new revenue for the city, and establish an additional economic engine in South Richmond. I applaud the work of the Evaluation Panel in their vetting of the proposals and engaging the entire city throughout this project.”
Stoney presented the ONE project to the city council on May 24. According to Virginia General Assembly legislation, the city council must petition the court to include a casino-gaming referendum on the ballot for the upcoming November 2 election, leaving the final decision on ONE’s future up to local voters.
Founded by Cathy Hughes in 1980, Urban One began with the media mogul’s purchase of WOL-AM, in Washington D.C., which offered 24-hour talk-radio programming from the perspectives within the Black community. Hughes built her business from the single station—where she also worked as a show host—into a company named Radio One. In 1999, after the sale of more than 7 million shares of common stock, Hughes became the first Black woman to chair a publicly held corporation.
A family business, Hughes and her son Alfred Liggins, III, grew the company into a multi-media organization that boasted a number of nationwide radio stations. According to Hughes’s biography, Radio One became the first African American-owned radio company in history to simultaneously lead in multiple markets, also making the founder the first woman owner of a radio station to occupy the No. 1 spot in a major market.
The company eventually launched TV One and Interactive One—the precursor to iOne Digital. Constantly evolving, the company grew to become Urban One, parent corporation to Reach Media, specializing in syndicated radio programming, which includes the “Rickey Smiley Morning Show” and the “Tom Joyner Morning Show;” iOne Digital, a collection of online destinations including Hello Beautiful and Cassius; One Solution, the marketing firm to support the entire family of brands; and TV One, which is the largest African American-owned cable television network in the United States.
Now the company’s chief executive officer, with his mother remaining at the firm as its chairperson, Liggins shared in a statement his happiness regarding the decision made by the city’s evaluation panel.
“ONE is thrilled the Richmond casino-selection committee has chosen the best project with the best location and best team to develop a world-class entertainment destination in Richmond’s Southside,” Liggins explained. “Urban One and our diverse group of local investors are fully committed to creating good-paying jobs with profit-sharing for employees, pathways to successful careers, and generating significant new tax revenues that can improve Richmond’s schools and fund community programs and infrastructure.”
The proposed site for ONE is located off of Interstate 95 in South Richmond at Walmsley Boulevard. Urban One’s partner on the project is Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, a casino owner and operator whose portfolio includes Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in Virginia.
If the ONE project is completed, it would be a testament to the town Richmond and support the local community. Within the space, visitors would find 100,000 square feet of gaming, a 250-room luxury hotel with pool and spa, and entertainment space that will host live events with a robust schedule. Its 12 dining and beverage options would include local restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and wineries. Radio and television studios, and a 15,000-square-foot soundstage will be erected on the grounds to support the work of local broadcast creatives. One of the features that the evaluation panel found most unique was a 55-acre green space that will allow members of the local community to enjoy the area in a park-style atmosphere that features a festival lawn and space for food trucks.
Estimates suggest that ONE would yield $525 million in new revenue and community benefits for Richmond, Va., over the course of the next decade. The proposal for the ONE included partnerships with Virginia Union University and Reynolds Community College that secure a commitment to workforce development.
In addition to Hughes’s legacy of philanthropy—such as supporting Piney Woods, Miss.’s The Piney Woods School, one of four African American boarding schools in the United States and an institution started by her grandfather—the pioneer has also been a staunch advocate of empowering communities that have not been afforded equitable opportunities. It is this type of commitment to the community that her son is approaching through the ONE project.
“As the CEO of Urban One, and with the founder and chairperson of the company, Cathy Hughes, we say thank you to the city of Richmond and its residents for placing your trust in us and our diverse group of local investors,” Liggins said in a statement that was posted to the ONE website. “We look forward to working with you to create something exciting and unprecedented with green space open to all, a terrific new music venue, some of Richmond’s best restaurants and lots of fun and entertainment for the River City.”