Petersburg had some big hopes of having a casino since Richmond failed to gain enough votes to approve the debut of a casino in its city during the 2021 referendum. Unfortunately, these dreams were killed by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, which voted 10-6 to crash House Bill 1373.
Del. Kim Taylor proposed the bill to allow Petersburg to vote on having a casino in November 2023. The bill had already made it through the Senate General Laws Committee, but the finance panel killed it following the influence of Sen. Louise Lucas. Louise sponsored the law that legalized casino gambling in Virginia.
As any other bill sponsor would feel, Taylor was disappointed. He noted that Petersburg residents should be able to determine their economic future without Richmond getting involved. He thought that the killing of House Bill 1373 was a setback to the residents and the democratic process.
Be More Methodical Considering City`s Request to Host a Casino
While Lucas was one of the sponsors of the law that legalized casino gaming in the state, she feels that not every city is eligible to host a casino. She asked the General Assembly to be more methodical in considering cities to host casinos.
Sen. Joe Morrissey was of the contrary opinion. He noted that the finance committee let unsophisticated interests get in the way of Petersburg`s best interest. Joe accused Louise of killing House Bill 1373 to protect Rivers Casino operator and Portsmouth.
Joe insisted that Louise did everything to ensure no casino was coming to Petersburg. He added that Lucas was looking out for the interests of wealthy white casino developers at the expense of African Americans.
One Last Shot at Petersburg Casino
The Virginia General Assembly allowed five cities with detrimental economies to hold a referendum asking their residents whether they wanted to host casinos to revitalize their economies. These cities included Portsmouth, Norfolk, Bristol, Danville, and Richmond. The first four cities voted to approve casinos in 2020, while Richmond waited a year.
Unfortunately, Richmond was not ready to host a casino based on the 51 percent of voters that disapproved of ONE Casino + Resort. Richmond wanted another referendum in 2022, but the General Assembly blocked the bid.
This was after Sen. Morrissey gave the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission the green light to find whether a Petersburg casino was feasible. The senator wanted to know whether it was possible to have a casino in Richmond and Petersburg or one of the cities alone.
Cordish Companies had proposed to build a $1.4 billion casino in Petersburg. However, the company has noted that it would not continue with its project if Richmond were allowed to host a casino too.
Meanwhile, Petersburg casino backers still have some hope. They hope that the chairman of the House Appropriations, Barry Knight, will include a language in the state budget to keep the Petersburg casino dream alive.
Knight commented that it was possible. However, he noted that his goal was to stop a referendum at Richmond and Petersburg until Emporia circuit court overturned a ban on electronic skill games, which Virginia casinos frown upon for profit reasons.