Richmond Casino Referendum Given Legal Approval For 2023 Vote

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A Richmond circuit court judge ruled in favor of the city of Richmond’s planned 2023 casino referendum Wednesday, thwarting a legal motion to block it. The ruling means Richmonders will vote Nov. 7 on whether the city should allow a casino to be built in Virginia’s capital city. 

A similar referendum narrowly failed in 2021.  

A nonprofit organization, Richmond Lodge No. 1 of the Good Lions Inc., filed a motion this summer to block the proposed 2023 referendum. The motion claimed the Richmond City Council didn’t hold a competitive bidding process to award the casino contract to RVA Entertainment Holdings, a joint venture between Urban One and Churchill Downs. 

Good Lions also argued the casino’s construction could hurt the organization’s ability to generate charitable gaming revenue, but the arguments didn’t persuade Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant. 

“​​Good Lions’ challenge to the City Council’s no bid/no notice process for selecting an operator of the casino, where Good Lions does not seek to be the operator, is not a challenge of government action fairly traceable to its expected loss of revenue,” Marchant wrote.

Richmond casino progress lags

Virginia legislation allows five cities to host legal casinos. Bristol (Hard Rock), Danville (Caesars), and Portsmouth (Rivers) have open casinos, while Norfolk officials are in the process of working with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to open HeadWaters Casino and Resort. 

The Richmond legal decision is viewed as a victory for casino stakeholders, but the referendum still needs to pass on Nov. 7 for casino construction to move forward. The 2021 referendum failed, and stakeholders were unable to get another referendum on the ballot in 2022 despite repeated efforts. 

Of the five cities given the opportunity to open casinos, Richmond is lagging behind the other four cities. 

“I am pleased to see Judge Marchant rule in favor of the City of Richmond,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said in a statement. “If approved this November, the proposed destination resort and casino will provide 1,300 good-paying jobs and an estimated $30 million in annual revenue to tackle our community’s greatest needs. On top of adding to Richmond’s record development and growth, this project will change the economic trajectory of Southside for years to come.”

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Author: Peter Griffin