Maryland-based media company Urban One is dropping plans to hold a referendum vote in this year's November election to build a Virginia casino in the state’s capital, Richmond.
The project, set to bring thousands of well-paying jobs and millions in much-needed tax revenue for schools, first responders, roads, and infrastructure to the city, was approved by the City Council for a second referendum after the first referendum was voted down in November 2021.
The company will now pursue running the second referendum to approve the One Resort + Casino project in the 2023 election.
Virginia State Budget Nixes 2022 Hopes
The City of Richmond and its partner, Urban One, backed off the vote this year after the recently passed Virginia state budget contained language that sought to delay the referendum to 2023.
"We were disappointed with the introduction of the budget language," said Alfred Liggins, CEO of Urban One. "Despite strong legal arguments to support moving forward in 2022, we have asked our partner, the City of Richmond, to withdraw their petition for a November 2022 ballot referendum because we feel a long protracted legal dispute at this time does not best serve the citizens of Richmond or the State of Virginia. We are now focused on winning the Richmond casino referendum in 2023."
The city’s plans to hold the referendum vote this year received a strong response from state Senator Joe Morrissey this week.
In a letter to the Virginia General Assembly, Morrissey called the city's plan to hold a casino referendum this year an illegal action.
“As you know, the 2022 Biennium Budget that was passed by the General Assembly and signed by you explicitly prevents Richmond from holding another referendum on a casino until November 2023,” Morrissey said in his letter.
Morrisey continued in the letter saying, “We are respectfully requesting that you direct the Attorney General's Office to utilize its legal authority to prevent Richmond from placing the above mentioned referendum on the November 2022 ballot.”
After Morrisey's letter, Urban One announced that it would drop the referendum from the November 2022 ballot.
Urban One Aims For Local Revitalization
Urban One is a media company geared toward Black America and the African-American community. The company has been active in Richmond for more than 20 years with multiple radio stations. The proposed One Resort + Casino project would be in south Richmond, right off of Interstate 95 at the Bell's Road exit.
In addition to bringing revenue to the city, the hope is that the project would showcase the very best of Richmond by featuring Richmond-based restaurants, local art, production studios, and 50 acres of green space.
"There is no doubt that Richmond is by far the best location for a project like this, with its central location, vibrancy and existing infrastructure," Urban One founder and chairperson Cathy Hughes said. “I'm grateful for the outpouring of broad support that we have received from Richmond and look forward to getting back on the air to continue the dialogue about our shared vision for One Resort + Casino.”
Virginia Casino Open and Online Sports Betting Thriving
The first Virginia casino, Bristol Casino by Hard Rock, opened on July 8. Three more casinos are planned in Portsmouth, Norfolk and Danville. If approved by a referendum vote in 2023, Richmond would become the fifth casino in the commonwealth.
Between January 2021 and May 2022, 14 Virginia sports wagering apps launched as part of the gambling expansion in the state.
Currently, Virginia online casinos have not been legalized as part of the gambling expansion.