Virginia judge grants Richmond permission to hold a second casino ballot

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A judge has reportedly told the Virginia city of Richmond that it may take a second run at persuading local voters into allowing radio broadcaster Urban One to bring a $600 million casino resort to a 100-acre plot of disused land.

According to a Monday report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper, Richmond City Circuit Court Judge Reilly Marchant yesterday endorsed a January move from the Richmond City Council that is to see the community hold a referendum this autumn on whether to authorize the building of the envisioned One Casino and Resort.

Pleasing proposition:

Virginia lawmakers reportedly passed legislation in April of 2020 that gave Richmond as well as the nearby communities of Norfolk, Danville, Bristol and Portsmouth permission to host Las Vegas-style gambling facilities so long as their local populations agreed by means of individual referendums. The scheme for ‘River City’ was to have purportedly seen Urban One partner with area racetrack operator Peninsula Pacific Entertainment so as to bring the One Casino and Resort complete with a 90,000 sq ft casino, a sportsbook and a 3,000-seat entertainments venue to a southside parcel of land currently owned by Philip Morris International.

Missed moment:

However, the newspaper reported that Richmond voters defeated this proposition in November by a slim 49% to 51% margin to leave the community of some 227,000 people as the sole member of the five-strong club of Virginia cities to miss out on the chance of hosting a casino resort. Opponents purportedly expressed concerns at the time that such a facility could exacerbate local gambling addiction, poverty and crime concerns and potentially not bring in the anticipated $500 million in ten-year tax benefits.

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Ensuing exercise:

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Undeterred and the newspaper reported that the Richmond City Council passed a measure by an almost unanimous margin in January that would see the casino question put to local voters for a second time. Proponents of this legislation included Richmond mayor Levar Stoney, who purportedly cited last November’s tightly contested result and the loss of approximately $30 million in projected annual tax revenues as his reasons for seeking a second ballot.

Reportedly read a Monday statement from Stoney…

“This special economic development opportunity in south Richmond gives the city an additional way to address equity and community wealth gaps. As the city continues to work on diversity, equity and inclusion, the casino project can assist with leveling the playing field for many Richmonders who continue to struggle during these uncertain and unprecedented times.”

Challenging campaign:

Barring any subsequent appeals or last-minute hold-ups and the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Richmond voters are to again be asked whether they approve of the One Casino and Resort plan on November 8. The newspaper reported that all of this is taking place as Virginia State Senator Joe Morrissey (pictured) is continuing to advocate in favor of a casino resort for the nearby city of Petersburg, which has a population of slightly over 33,000.

Legislative limbo:

Morrissey had his initial casino-friendly legislative attempt quashed last month by the Virginia State Senate’s influential General Law and Technology Sub-Committee but reportedly soon returned to place a measure into the southern state’s proposed budget for 2023 that would temporarily prevent Richmond from holding its second referendum. Nevertheless, the newspaper disclosed that this entire plan is currently stalled after not being ratified in advance of the March 12 finish to the Virginia General Assembly’s latest session.

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A statement from Morrissey reportedly read…

The budget is a law. That law supersedes any city ordinance or court order.”

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