Richmond casino project gets approval for second referendum

Richmond VA
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Voters in Richmond will be asked once again whether they support a casino in the city after the Virginia Lottery approved the council’s plans to hold a second referendum on the issue.

Last week, the lottery gave the green light for the second referendum to go ahead after the Richmond City Council voted in favor of giving casino backers another chance at winning over the electorate. In a vote last month, only one member of the council opposed the plans.

In November 2021, a referendum on bringing a casino to Richmond was narrowly defeated, with just 1500 votes earning a “No” campaign a slim victory. 

But, with the economic benefits that a new land-based property could bring to the city, the council alongside the proponents of the project continued with their ambitions to make Richmond the fifth city in Virginia to have a land-based casino. 

Now the Virginia Lottery has signed off on the plans, the Richmond Circuit Court has entered an order placing the question on the ballot for voters this November. 

The casino project developers, RVA Entertainment Holdings, comprising Churchill Downs and Urban One, have expressed their delight at the news. 

“Churchill Downs has been proudly providing our guests extraordinary entertainment experiences for 150 years, beginning with the iconic Kentucky Derby,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Incorporated

“Our company has proven success in the development and operations of premier entertainment, gaming, and racing venues that deliver tangible and meaningful benefits for our host communities. We look forward to delivering on this mission and vision in Richmond.”

In the coming weeks, RVA Entertainment Holdings will reveal the design and vision for the casino resort, which is set to be built near Commerce Road in South Richmond. 

The group did note some of the economic benefits that the casino would bring as it set out its stall ahead of the election campaign. It claims that the resort would contribute $30m in total tax revenue for the city per year, as well as a one-time $26.5m payment upon passage and well as 1,300 jobs. 

Should the referendum go in its favor, the casino would feature a luxury hotel with live entertainment and conference venues, dining options, gaming facilities with slot games, table games, and a sportsbook, as well as green spaces. 

“We are ready to elevate our 20-plus relationship with Richmonders by presenting opportunities for real economic impact,” said Alfred Liggins, CEO of Urban One. 

“We are proud of the service we continue to provide through various community and business partnerships and are talking to local leaders and citizens about the kinds of entertainment options, jobs, and community benefits they want to see included in this project. 

“While this initiative will create 1,300 well-paying jobs and generate $30m in annual revenue for the city, we are most excited about the investment it allows us to continue to make in the citizens of this great city.”

Richmond was listed as one of five cities in Virginia authorized to hold a referendum on whether to open a casino when the state’s general assembly passed through HB1373 in 2020. 

Whilst the other four cities – Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, and Norfolk – held successful referenda, the voters of Richmond narrowly said no in 2021.