Richmond Legally Barred From Conducting Third Casino Referendum

The Richmond City Council and its mayor, Levar Stoney, desperately sought to become home to a commercial casino. Voters in the Virginia capital city, however, twice voted against the local governmentโ€™s proposed casino project. Now, the city is legally prohibited from putting forward another ballot question about a casino.

Richmond voters rejected two casino resort proposals through ballot referendums. A third casino effort in the Virginia capital has been barred through state legislation. (Image: Casino.org)

On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) signed two measures that effectively ban Richmond from further mulling a casino development.

House Bill 525, introduced by Del. Paul Krizek (D-Alexandria), bars eligible casino host cities from conducting subsequent referendums asking local voters to authorize a gaming resort development for three years from the date of the failed referendum.

More consequential to Richmond is House Bill 1131, which was introduced by Del. Betsy Carr (D-Richmond). The legislation strips Richmond as an eligible city for a casino.

Richmond, along with Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Danville, was included in 2020 legislation that allowed the city government to weigh a casino project to spur economic development.

State Folds on Richmond Casino

A little more than 51% of voters in the capital confines rejected a proposed casino scheme called ONE Casino + Resort in 2021, a $562 million project targeting the Southside near the Philip Morris plant.

City officials supposed a more coordinated campaign explaining the economic benefits that such a resort would deliver would result in a different outcome. They went back to the drawing board and presented a new proposal in November 2023.

However, last fallโ€™s Richmond casino vote was even more opposed, with 58% of Richmonders casting a ballot against the project called Richmond Grand Resort & Casino. Voters in the four other cities allocated a casino opportunity voted to authorize their respective resorts.

Richmondโ€™s casino defeat might have been due to the cityโ€™s picking of Urban One as its preferred development partner. A media conglomerate focused on the Black community, the publicly traded company lacks any experience in developing or operating a casino or hotel.

Divisive rhetoric from Urban One leadership in the leadup to last Novemberโ€™s vote also didnโ€™t help its cause.

โ€œDo not forget that they do not see you as a human being,โ€ Urban One founder Cathy Hughes said on air about casino opponents, many of whom were thought to be white Richmonders in more affluent neighborhoods. โ€œEven though you may have a house like theirs, a car like theirs, they see you as a n****.โ€

Richmond Rescinded

Carrโ€™s bill, which prevents Richmond from holding another referendum in November 2026 or later, gained unanimous support in both chambers of the General Assembly. The 100-member House and 40-seat Senate all voted in favor of HB 1131.

The statute rescinds language from the stateโ€™s 2020 gaming bill that applied to Richmond that read:

Any city with a population greater than 200,000 according to the 2018 population estimates from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service of the University of Virginia; (ii) in which at least 24 percent of the assessed value of all real estate in such city is exempt from local property taxation, according to the Virginia Department of Taxation Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2018; and (iii) that had a poverty rate of at least 24 percent in 2017, according to data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.โ€

The two gaming measures signed by Youngkin were among more than 100 pieces of legislation that the governor acted on this week. He vetoed just four of the 104 bills.

The vetoes dealt with legislation about climate change, environmental literacy, court records, and the sale of certain plant species.

Youngkin has yet to act on legislation qualifying Petersburg as a casino host.

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