Richmond voters reject casino proposals for second time

no on ballot box
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Richmond will not become the fifth city in Virginia to build a casino development after voters rejected proposals in a referendum in the state elections yesterday. 

The vote – which coincided with the Democrats taking both the House and Senate in a successful night at the ballot box – saw the electorate reject the Richmond Grand Casino & Resort in a 60-40% split. 

It marks the second time that the plans for a casino in Richmond have been denied at the ballot box after a vote in 2021 ended in a 51-49% rejection. The increasing “no” vote perhaps points to the fatigue of running a second referendum campaign pushed through by the local government. 

Following the defeat of the Richmond casino gaming referendum, Richmond Wins, Vote Yes, stated: “We are proud to have run a community-centered campaign to create more opportunities for residents of this great city to rise into the middle class. We are grateful to the thousands of Richmonders who voted for good jobs and a stronger city, especially those in Southside who poured their hearts into this project.”

The proposals, had they been approved, would have seen Urban One and Churchill Downs construct and operate a $1.3bn casino resort in the southside of the city, an area that campaigners said would benefit from the economic development. 

It comes as a blow to campaigners including Mayor Levar Stoney, who was one of the high-profile backers of the project. Mayor Stoney came out early in support of the casino after seeing the economic benefits experienced by Bristol since the Hard Rock casino opened there in July 2022. 

The Mayor of Richmond stated: “I will continue to be a voice for communities that have been historically overlooked and underserved. I will work for more accessible and affordable child care, for good paying jobs, and for an abundance of opportunities for ALL Richmonders – no matter their zip code or socioeconomic status.”

Bristol, Portsmouth, Danville and Norfolk have all approved casino gaming in referenda in the last few years since the General Assembly legalized land-based gaming in the state in 2020. 

Richmond was the fifth city involved in the process, however, after a second voter rejection, attention may soon turn to other potential casino locations in the state. 

In the last legislative session, lawmakers in the Virginia House passed a bill allowing Petersburg to hold a casino referendum, but that legislation never proceeded any further. 

There is also a pre-emptive proposal for a resort in Petersburg after the city council ran a process there in late 2022.

The Cordish Companies unveiled a $1.4bn proposal for a casino resort in Petersburg after the local council named it as the first choice candidate in a unanimous vote. 

Proposed to be named Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia, the casino proposal would boast 670,000 square feet of gaming, hotel, dining and entertainment space; 200-room hotel; over 2,000 slots and electronic table games and 60 live-action table games including poker; sportsbook, event center, a dozen food and beverage outlets and free parking surface.