A judge has granted the city of Richmond, Virginia, its request for a second casino referendum, to be conducted this November. The city council committee had unanimously voted in favor of the idea in January, seeking to pursue the failed Urban ONE casino project a second time after it was narrowly voted down by residents in November last year.
The new push for the casino has been championed by Mayor Levar Stoney and Councilwoman Reva Trammell and soon gained support from a majority of city council members. A new order from Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant has now finalized the question, ordering that it appear on Richmond voters’ ballots in November, reports WRIC.
“Shall casino gaming be permitted at a casino gaming establishment in the City of Richmond, Virginia, at 2001 Walmsley Boulevard and 4700 Trenton Avenue, Richmond, Virginia 23234 as may be approved by the Virginia Lottery Board?” reads the question, as it will appear on voters’ ballots.
The ONE Casino + Resort project, to cost about $565 million, would be located in the exact same south Richmond location as proposed last November. However, city officials believe their luck could change this time around, given the addition of a property tax cut to this year’s proposal: a two-cent real estate tax rate reduction across the city.
“This special economic development opportunity in South Richmond gives the city an additional way to address equity and community wealth gaps,” Mayor Levar Stoney said in a statement, retrieved by WWBT. “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.”
The previous referendum failed by a slim margin, with a majority of voters against the project coming from precincts on the east side and downtown areas. According to Urban ONE CEO Alfred Liggins, many Richmonders were confused back then about where the money from the project would be going, and pledged the company would now be more specific. Meanwhile, voters on south Richmond, where the casino would be built, were overwhelmingly supportive.
However, 16th District State Senator Joe Morrissey, who is pushing for a casino referendum in Petersburg, believes Richmond hasn’t yet won this round: there are specific conditions in the state budget to be considered.
“In the budget, it says two things: Number one, that a JLARC study has to be done to see if Petersburg qualifies for as a host casino city; and number two, that no referendum can be held in Richmond until that’s done,” Morrisey said, according to WWBT. “I expect that language to stay within the budget.”
Morrissey, who initially campaigned for the casino to come to Richmond, claims voters spoke their mind in November, and believes Petersburg would benefit from it even more. “Whatever the casino could do in Richmond, it could do 10 times that in Petersburg,” Morrisey said. “The voters said no. Accordingly, the next city up is Petersburg.”