In 2020, Virginia expanded casino gaming by passing a bill allowing five cities to host one casino each. The cities included Norfolk, Richmond, Danville, Portsmouth, and Bristol. The residents of these cities had to agree with casino expansion by voting before a city could continue its plans.
All cities except Richmond voted to agree with casino expansion. Richmonders rejected the plan to have a casino in 2021, igniting Petersburg’s interest in having a casino.
The officials behind a Richmond casino would have wanted another referendum in November 2022. However, other officials, including Sen. Jim Morrissey, implemented a budget provision blocking Richmond from holding a second ballot referendum.
Morrissey wanted Petersburg to be considered a qualifying host for a casino. Unfortunately, Morrissey was defeated in his Democratic primary race, so he will lose his seat in January 2024. His campaign to block Richmond from holding a second ballot referendum also hit a hiatus following a misunderstanding between Democrats and Republicans on spending a $3.6 billion surplus budget.
Virginia Lottery and the Circuit Court Give the Green Light
Despite all the hindering factors, a second ballot referendum on Richmond casino is now a step closer. This comes after the Virginia Lottery and the Circuit Court approved the bid.
The city council voted 8 to 1 in June to allow Richmonders to vote on the casino in November. This was followed by a call by the Circuit Court of Richmond, authorizing the Richmond Office of Elections to put a ballot in November.
While this is a good sign, there are still some obstacles. For instance, the outgoing senator Morrissey is campaigning for a casino 25 miles to the south, that is, Petersburg. He previously succeeded in blocking a second referendum last year.
The Democrats and Republicans have stalled budget negotiations for this year. But, there is still room to block the referendum, even if it will be the last thing lawmakers will look at.
Richmond Is Happy
Starting with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, the city is happy. Levar expressed his joy after seeing the Virginia Lottery and the Richmond Circuit Court approve a referendum for a destination resort.
The mayor noted that the entertainment venue would provide 1,300 employment opportunities and over $30 million in revenue taxes catering to the community’s needs.
Stoney revealed that Richmond was experiencing record growth. He also said a destination resort would help the city change its economic route for many years.
Churchill Downs and Urban One are also happy. These are the giant companies behind the proposed $562 million casino resort. Urban One Inc. is a media company based in Baltimore.
Speaking about the possibility of a second referendum, the CEO of Churchill Downs said he was looking forward to delivering on its promise. The company has a proven history of developing successful racing, gaming, and entertainment venues. Churchill Downs is also known for delivering meaningful advantages to the communities that host venues.
The previous question on having a casino in Richmond failed by a fraction. By revamping its plan, Churchill Downs and Urban One may have a good shot at winning this year.