A Richmond City Circuit Court judge has signed an order granting a second referendum this November to build a $565-million casino resort in the city. The casino project was narrowly defeated in the first referendum last November.
The plan calls for Maryland-based Urban One to build “ONE Casino and Resort” along Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond. Urban One is a leading media company geared toward black America and the African-American community.
Legislation adopted by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020 and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam authorizes the city to host a casino gaming establishment, subject to the residents of Richmond approving a casino referendum. It is one of five cities permitted to have casinos.
Richmond’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel selected Urban One Casino and Resort in April 2021 after reviewing six proposals from well-known casino companies like Cordish Cos., Bally's and Golden Nugget, to name a few. The City Council approved and selected Urban One in June 2021.
Leading up to the first referendum vote last year Richmond City Mayor Levar Stoney said “the people will have the final say.” Results showed 51% of Richmond voters rejected the casino proposal during that vote. Leading up to a second vote Stoney continues a push to support the casino project.
‘About 1,500 Jobs on the Line’
“I think it’s very clear that we stand with the city council on this one,” Stoney said during a recent press conference. “The city council voted 8-1 to hold a referendum here in Richmond in 2022 and we'd like to see that happen. We don't want to see any delays. I would reject anything that would harm opportunities for Richmond residents.
“We support the council and making sure this is held in 2022 because we are talking about 1,500 jobs on the line, good paying jobs and career opportunities and any time those types of opportunities are on the line, you're going to see this administration stand up for it. That's why we stand with the city council on this one.”
Stoney and several council members have proposed a 2-cent reduction to the city’s real estate tax if city voters approve the project this fall, according to a story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
While Richmond prepares for a second vote on a casino, Hard Rock Bristol and HeadWaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk are in a race to become the first casino to open in Virginia.
When Will 1st VA Casino Open?
There are no Virginia casinos yet, but gaming in the state is becoming more accessible, with a robust Virginia sports betting market doing very well in its first full year of operating only online. Virginia cities Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth all passed casino referendums in November 2020 by large margins.
Construction plans are underway for Hard Rock International's temporary casino in Bristol.
The temporary full-service casino boasts about 30,000 square feet of casino space, with around 900 gaming slots and 20 tables for a variety of gaming options, the company said. The space will include a main casino floor as well as non-smoking and high limit gaming areas.
Construction will begin soon at the former Bristol Mall with a temporary casino slated to open before the end of the second quarter of 2022.
Norfolk Casino on Track
Meanwhile, some 400 miles to the east along the Eastern Shore, project leaders said the HeadWaters Resort & Casino is on schedule to break ground in Norfolk this summer.
But before the full casino is complete, there are active conversations about possibly opening a restaurant and lounge that would offer limited gaming.
The city said it could have full building plans for the casino by April.