Virginia lawmakers have killed legislation to let Petersburg voters decide in November whether to approve a $1.4 billion casino resort proposal in the city. This was the last surviving bill related to the Petersburg casino, which was shot down in the vote last week.
On Thursday, a Virginia Senate Finance Committee voted 10-6 to reject House Bill 1373, proposed by Del. Kim Taylor, R-Dinwiddie. The bill would have designated Petersburg as a possible location for a $1.4 billion casino. The same committee also killed a similar bill earlier in the General Assembly session.
The vote was to pass by indefinitely (essentially reject) the measure, according to the state's Legislative Information System website.
Vote on Petersburg Casino Had Been Planned For November
The City of Petersburg, along with casino developer The Cordish Companies, had planned to ask residents to vote this November on the $1.4 billion casino and entertainment resort.
Initially, the Virginia General Assembly designated Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond as cities approved to build casinos. Voters approved casinos in all cities but Richmond. Voters in 2021 rejected the idea of having a casino in the capitol of a state where Virginia sports betting has been legal since Jan. 21, 2021.
Richmond had made plans to hold a second referendum to vote on the casino again. That effort was blocked by the Virginia General Assembly and Senator Joe Morrissey’s plans to add Petersburg to the list of casino cities, taking Richmond’s spot.
After last week’s defeat, hopes of a casino in Petersburg — a proposal which passed in the state House previously — are dying. But Morrissey is resolute.
“We, I’m talking about all the stakeholders who want to bring that casino to Petersburg, are resolute,” Morrissey told WBBT, Richmond’s NBC television affiliate. “It’s coming there, and we’re not giving up.”
Morrissey said he is confident there will be language in the state’s budget that will block Richmond from holding a second referendum.
There are currently two brick-and-mortar casinos operating in the Old Dominion State as well as online VA sports betting apps.
‘The People Will Have The Final Say’
In 2021, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said a casino would be an economic development project that would bring 1,300 well-paying jobs and millions in much-needed revenue to the city while continuing the revitalization of South Richmond.
“And as we said from the beginning, the people will have the final say,” Stoney added.
But 51% of Richmond voters rejected the casino proposal during that vote. Now the city is looking to hold a second referendum vote.
“My concern would be the General Assembly trying to delay Richmond from voting, from holding a (second) referendum for another year,” Richmond City Council President Mike Jones said.
“We're not discounting their vote,” Jones said during an interview with Richmond CBS TV affiliate WTVR. “But, the reality is this: There was still a lot of misinformation out there. We saw a breakdown along lines of color.”
If approved, the casino project would be managed by Maryland-based Urban One, a media company geared toward Black America and the African-American community.
City officials say the proposed $565-million casino project named ONE Casino & Resort would bring more than 1,500 new jobs to the city — jobs paying a minimum of $15 an hour — and provide outstanding community benefits and a compensation package to the City of Richmond in terms of new general fund revenue.
No real movement has been made toward making legal, regulated Virginia online casinos a reality, though six states have iGaming, including neighboring West Virginia and nearby Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.
First Virginia Casinos
Virginia currently has one temporary casino and one permanent casino operating in the state. Hard Rock’s temporary Bristol Casino will grow into a full permanent casino, scheduled to open in May 2024.
Rivers Casino Portsmouth, the state’s first permanent casino, opened to the public Jan. 23.
The two casinos combined generated an adjusted gross revenue of $22.4 million in January and will pay $3 million in taxes to the state for the month.
The casino in Portsmouth has a BetRivers Virginia Sportsbook.
Caesars Entertainment, Inc., will open Caesars Virginia in Danville later this year. Virginia’s fourth approved casino, HeadWaters Resort & Casino, will open in Norfolk.
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