The Richmond City Council voted to pursue the failed Urban ONE casino project a second time. One resolution and two ordinances seeking to revive the development were passed on Monday night, in an attempt to bring the referendum back on the ballot in November.
The efforts to pursue the casino project once again were spearheaded by Councilwoman Reva Trammell, who was met with support from most of her colleagues, Urban ONE CEO Alfred Liggins, and members of the community, reports WRIC. Only one councilmember voted against the casino-related items.
Resolution 2022-R003 was passed on Monday, to select RVA Entertainment Holdings as Richmond’s preferred casino gaming operation, and moves forward the process to establish a referendum. The casino would operate at 2001 Walmsley Boulevard and 4700 Trenton Avenue.
The city council also approved Ordinance 2022-015, executing a Community Support Agreement between the city and parties with the casino, and Ordinance 2022-014, which executes the Casino Host Community Agreement.
Councilmembers supporting the casino project sent a release ahead of the meeting, stating revenue would be used for school and improvement projects. Urban ONE CEO Alfred Liggins also showed public support for the effort, stating that the company has an established track record of bringing opportunity and equity to the Richmond community.
Liggins expressed confidence that this time around Richmond residents would vote “yes” on the project, stating many Richmonders were confused about where the money from the project would be going. The CEO said Urban ONE would be more specific now in an effort to give a reason to vote for the development.
Councilwoman Trammell said that, because the vote failed by a slim margin in November, it warranted a second try, reports WVTR. She said that voters on Richmond's Southside, where the casino would be built, were overwhelmingly supportive of the casino, and explained the proposal now includes a two-cent real estate tax rate reduction across the city.
The casino referendum was narrowly voted down in 2021. While voters in other chosen cities in Virginia, including Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth and Norfolk, passed referendums in 2020 allowing gambling developments, Richmond, the fifth city originally chosen, rejected the proposition. The proposal fell through on a margin of 49% to 51%, by about 1,500 votes.
Virginia State senator Joe Morrissey.
Since then, Petersburg introduced gambling referendum legislation to bring the project to the city, after voters in Richmond rejected the project. The bill also seeks to bar Richmond from re-voting on the matter for the next five years.
“Richmond had more than ample opportunity to vote on this,” state delegate Kim Taylor, R-Dinwiddie, said earlier this month. “Now it's time for Petersburg to have that same opportunity,” she added, dismissing the push for a second chance.
Following the Richmond City Council approval to pursue the casino project a second time, state senator Joe Morrissey, who is backing the proposal to bring the development to Petersburg, said the casino referendum bill remained “unaffected” by the Richmond plan to revote.
"I can assure you that the Virginia General Assembly is not waiting with bated breath to see what Richmond City Council is going to do," state Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, told The Progress-Index while the Richmond vote was being taken.