Richmond Casino Proposal Narrowly Defeated in Referendum

Richmond Casino Proposal Narrowly Defeated in Referendum

Despite getting strong support during early voting, a proposal to build a casino in Richmond for Virginia gambling was narrowly defeated by voters on Tuesday.

With 51 of 52 precincts in Richmond reporting as of Wednesday morning, 51.4% voted against it, while 48.6% approved it, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. The election results won’t be certified until officials verify provisional votes and late-arriving mailed ballots, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney issued a statement Wednesday on the failure of the referendum, according to the Times-Dispatch, saying “from the beginning, we said the people would decide. They have spoken, and we must respect their decision.”

“While I believe this was a $565 million opportunity lost to create well-paying jobs, expand opportunity, keep taxes low and increase revenue to meet the needs of our growing city, I am proud of the transparent and public process we went through to listen to our residents and put this opportunity before our voters.”

Richmond was one of five cities permitted to build casinos under the new Virginia gaming law. Four other cities overwhelmingly voted last year to allow casinos — Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth. By law only one casino can be built in Richmond.

The Urban One Casino and Resort, projected to cost $562.5 million, was planned for a site at Walmsley Boulevard and Trenton Avenue in Richmond. The planned casino was expected to open in October 2024.

The proposed site previously was home to a Philip Morris Operations Center.

In April, the Richmond Resort Casino Evaluation Panel chose Urban One Casino and Resort after proposals from six casino companies, including Cordish Cos., Bally's and Golden Nugget. The Richmond City Council approved Urban One in June.

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Early Voting Support Didn’t Bring Win

With early voting beginning on Sept. 17, some political figures came out in support of the Richmond casino, including current Gov. Ralph Northam.

Northam said he voted yes for the casino because the project would bring revenue to the state for schools and roads, among other infrastructure needs. Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who was defeated Tuesday, said he voted yes and wanted “to be the first one to throw those dice on that table.”

Not all politicians were on board. U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who voted Sept. 20, said he had voted against the proposed Southside facility. “He believes there are better ways to enhance economic development in Richmond,” Kaine’s communications department said at the time in a news release.

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Online VA Sports Betting Thriving

Online Virginia sports betting launched in January and there are nine sportsbooks operating in the state. Golden Nugget Online Gaming was the latest, going live in Virginia at the end of September.

Bettors in Virginia wagered nearly $294 million in September, an increase of about 61% from August ($182.4 million). That was the second-highest handle for a month since the market launched.

The lottery also announced at its last board meeting that it expects Bally Bet to launch in the state in mid-November, and that five other operators could go live in the state before the end of the NFL season.



Ron Fritz is a former editor of

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