In Virginia and the developer behind the envisioned One Casino and Resort has reportedly announced that it may pursue legal action after state legislators passed a measure that would prevent the city of Richmond from holding a planned second casino referendum in November.
According to a Thursday report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper, the disclosure from local radio broadcaster Urban One Incorporated came a day after the Virginia General Assembly approved language in the state’s new budget that would bar the city of almost 227,000 people from holding a second vote before November of 2023. This proposed blockage still requires the signature of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (pictured) with numerous observers purportedly detailing that the Republican politician has yet to make up his mind.
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 plan for ‘River City’ was to have purportedly seen Urban One Incorporated partner with area racetrack operator Peninsula Pacific Entertainment so as to bring the $600 million 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.
However, the newspaper reported that Richmond voters defeated this proposition last November by a slim 49% to 51% margin to leave the community 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.
Undeterred and the Richmond City Council reportedly passed a measure by an almost unanimous margin in January that would see the casino question put to local voters for a second time this autumn. Proponents of this campaign 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.
As all of this was going on and the nearby city of Petersburg reportedly stepped into the breach to begin advocating for the right to utilize the casino license the Virginia Lottery Board had initially allocated to Richmond. Virginia State Senator Joe Morrissey purportedly led this campaign and intends to introduce legislation in January that would designate this smaller community as the locality for the state’s fifth gambling-friendly property.
Reportedly read a statement from Stoney…
“We’re disappointed the Virginia General Assembly has amended the state budget in a way that will deliberately harm the city of Richmond by denying economic opportunities for its residents. We are still assessing our legal options but remain firm in our belief that the citizens of Richmond should not be disenfranchised just months before they would have the opportunity to vote.”
But Urban One Incorporated reportedly went further in calling the move from the Virginia General Assembly ‘unlawful’ in advance of suggesting that it may file suit in an effort to get the second casino referendum over the line. In expressing its displeasure, the would-be developer purportedly cited a March ruling from Richmond City Circuit Court Judge Reilly Marchant that upheld the proposed ballot move from the Richmond City Council.
A statement from Urban One Incorporated reportedly read…
“This retroactive budget language seeks to unconstitutionally invalidate a final court order and inappropriately constrain the Virginia Lottery Board in fulfilling its regulatory authority in the same manner as it has done for other casinos. We will partner with the city of Richmond including through litigation to ensure that the people of Richmond have the final say on what happens in their community and that the rule of law is protected.”
Despite the threat of legal action and Morrissey reportedly issued a statement in which he called on Urban One Incorporated and Richmond to ‘move on’ as the benefits of having a casino in Petersburg ‘far outweigh’ any their proposed project could bring. He purportedly disclosed that these perks could include a 30% to 40% increase in general tax revenues alongside saving money that would otherwise be wasted fighting a ‘losing battle’ in court.
Morrissey’s statement reportedly read…
“So [Stoney] is desirous and wants to fight in court, fine. It wouldn’t be the first time that he’s wasted city of Richmond funds to fight a losing battle.”