Richmond gains the go-ahead for second casino referendum

A Circuit Court judge in the Virginian capital of Richmond has given the city’s revived casino proposal a huge shot in the arm, after granting permission for a second referendum to be held.

In January it was revealed that lawmakers were to be requested to schedule a second referendum regarding the potential construction, in a move spearheaded by Mayor Levar Stoney and Councilwoman Leva Trammell.

However, despite Circuit Court Judge W Reilly Marchant accepting the plea, local media reports that the joy could be short-lived as nearby Petersburg makes its own casino play 

This could see the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission petitioned to conduct a study to assess the viability of a Petersberg gaming establishment, a move that would effectively block Richmond from proceeding.  

Should Richmond proceed to a second referendum in November of this year, the question on the ballot that would be facing voters would read: Shall casino gaming be permitted at a casino gaming establishment in the city of Richmond, Virginia, at 2001 Walmsley Boulevard and 4700 Trenton Avenue, Richmond, Virginia, 23234 as may be approved by the Virginia Lottery Board?

“This special economic development opportunity in south Richmond gives the city an additional way to address equity and community wealth gaps,” Stoney said in a prepared statement regarding this latest development. 

“As the city continues to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the casino project can assist with levelling the playing field for many Richmonders who continue to struggle during these uncertain and unprecedented times.”

The resolution to resurrect Urban One’s One Casino Resort passed through city council by a vote of 8-1 earlier in the year.

Patrons for the resolution included President Cynthia Newbille, Vice President Ellen Robertson, Councilman Michael Jones, Councilwoman Ann-Frances Lambert, and Councilman Andreas Addison, as well as Trammell and Stoney.

One Casino + Resort was proposed by Urban One in partnership with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which owns and operates several casinos, as well as Colonial Downs Racetrack and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in Virginia.   

The proposal included plans to construct a sportsbook, 90,000 square feet of gaming, 150 hotel rooms, a 3,000 capacity theatre, 12 bars and restaurants, 20,000 square feet of event space, and a 50 plus acre green space initiative.

The company had previously defeated an array of fellow proposals for the right to be the selected participant, including the Cordish Companies’ $600m Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond, after Bally’s Corporation’s $650m Bally’s Richmond Casino Resort, which were rejected in April 2021.

This itself followed the field being halved one month earlier, when Golden Nugget, Wind Creek Hospitality, and Pamunkey Indian Tribe & Reservation were named as those not advancing to the next round of consideration.

In November, Urban One accepted defeat in its quest to develop a $565m casino resort in Richmond, which became the only one of five areas within the state to reject such a construction.

Currently there are four land-based casino developments proceeding in Virginia, those being across Bristol, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Danville, the operating partners of which are Hard Rock International, Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Rush Street Gaming, and Caesars, respectively. Each was approved in local referenda in November 2020.