Urban One Could Divert Casino Plans From Virginia To Maryland


As Urban One catches up on its financial earnings releases to regain Nasdaq compliance, the company held its first-half 2023 conference call on Thursday. Led by CEO Alfred Liggins, the call focused on audio, Q4, and the company’s failed bid for a Richmond casino.

Despite radio being Urban One’s strongest earner across Q1 and Q2, Liggins says that robustness in the first half has faded into the latter. Conversely, the cable television segment, after a 6.8% revenue decline from ratings and churn, has found stability as the year progressed. Liggins took extra time to praise the company’s digital arm, calling it, “Surprising to the upside in Q4.”

CFO Peter Thompson gave a more granular overview of the finances, including a 3.8% year-over-year increase in consolidated net revenue, buoyed by the Indianapolis radio acquisition from Emmis in 2022 and the Reach cruise event. Radio received an 8.3% overall increase but a 1.3% decrease on a same-station basis, excluding political revenue.

As for the company’s casino plans, Liggins said the divestment in MGM is reflected in Urban One’s cash balance. “We are thinking through all of those things now. And certainly, debt paydown is something that is a top consideration,” he added. When asked if future casino plans were on the table, Liggins said, “Yes, absolutely. It’s a great business. We made a lot of money on our MGM investment. We made like 4.5 times our investment. There’s risk, right? You can overbuild. Interest rates are higher now. So, that was going to put pressure on the returns. And it’s a political process.”

Urban One hopes to leverage its unique position as an African-American owned organization significantly invested in the gambling sector. The company is keeping a close eye on developments in Virginia, particularly the allocation of a fifth gaming license. However, Urban One hasn’t yet determined its potential involvement or identified the likely city and key players for this license.

Additionally, the company is monitoring the evolving iGaming landscape in Maryland. Unlike sports betting, iGaming has shown to be profitable, and Maryland legislators are considering a bill that could introduce iGaming in the state. However, the company’s previous deal with MGM did not include online gaming activities, limiting its involvement to physical, brick-and-mortar operations.

As for the remainder of the year, Liggins emphasized Urban One’s commitment to maintaining its full-year EBITDA guidance, projecting between $125 and $128 million.


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