Richmond Prepares for Second Referendum Vote on Casino-Resort in November

Richmond Prepares for Second Referendum Vote on Casino-Resort in November

With a court order in place that is non-appealable, City of Richmond officials say residents will get a second chance to vote in November on whether a casino will be placed in the state's capital.

Leonard Sledge, Richmond's director of economic development, told Richmond City Council members May 9 that voters will determine the fate of a proposed $565-million project named ONE Casino & Resort. Sledge told council members the project would bring more than 1,500 new jobs to the city paying a minimum of $15 an hour, provide outstanding community benefits and a compensation package to the City of Richmond in terms of new general fund revenue.

The initial vote on the casino-resort was defeated last November. After the defeat, a Richmond City Circuit Court judge signed an order granting a second referendum vote this November.

“Now that the court order is final and non-appealable, that court order has been sent to the registrar office,” Sledge said. “The registrar, along with the other items that will be on the ballot, those ballots will be printed sometime in August and it is our understanding that [the casino] will be on the November ballot and also for early voting.”

Sledge did note that the state Senate and House of Delegates have yet to agree on a new budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The budget proposal includes language that would bar Richmond from holding a referendum for a year.

“We are also very mindful of the fact that, as the state general assembly has not passed a budget yet, there could very well be preventive language that seeks to restrict the city's ability to hold a November referendum,” Sledge said. “But we are of the mindset that with the court order that we have being final and non-appealable, the Richmond voters will still have the opportunity in November and with the early voting period to cast their ballot to make a decision as to whether or not they would like to have a resort casino operating in the City of Richmond.” Early voting starts in September.

ONE Casino and Resort Chosen

The plan calls for Maryland-based media company Urban One to build the ONE Casino and Resort. Urban One is a leading media company geared toward black America and the African-American community.

Richmond’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel selected Urban One's casino after reviewing six proposals from well-known casino companies like Cordish Cos., Bally's and Golden Nugget, to name a few. City Council members say the casino could revolutionize the city.

“I just think this is a pivotal time for the City of Richmond,” said council member Michael Jones. “We really have an opportunity to do something that is going to be transformative for the next 30, 40 years at minimum. We have an opportunity to revolutionize this city like never before from an economic development standpoint.”

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Rosie’s Operates in Richmond

The city isn't new to gambling establishments. Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, owned and operated by Colonial Downs Group, has been operating in Richmond since 2019. Under Virginia law, Rosie's Gaming Emporiums are not considered casinos and do not provide the same type of games offered by casinos.

“So where people have concerns about casinos and things of that nature. We already have casino gaming in the city and it’s right in my backyard,” Jones said. “And I hope the citizens of Richmond can get past their biases and vote that through.”

There are no casinos in Virginia yet, but gaming in the state is becoming more accessible, with the online Virginia sports betting market doing very well in its first full year of operation.

Virginia cities Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth all passed casino referendums in November 2020 by large margins. Hard Rock Bristol plans to open the state's first casino on July 8.

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Keith Stein is a Virginia-based writer for who covers sports betting and casinos.

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