Posted on: February 11, 2022, 07:55h.
Last updated on: February 11, 2022, 08:33h.
Bringing a casino to Petersburg, Va., was a short-lived dream for those who supported the effort, most notably Virginia state Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond).
Morrissey introduced Senate Bill 203 soon after voters in Richmond rejected a local ballot referendum last November regarding a commercial casino development. Richmond was one of five cities in Virginia that qualified to consider a casino resort under the state’s 2020 gaming package.
When efforts began in Richmond to re-ask local voters regarding the casino in hopes of a different outcome, Morrissey authored SB203 to allow nearby Petersburg to consider a casino, while simultaneously prohibiting Richmond from holding a second casino vote for the next five years.
Morrisey said Richmond city officials were not respecting the will of the people. But he, too, supports bringing a casino to the capital region in order to create new jobs and tax revenue.
However, state lawmakers this week said the 2020 gaming bill prohibited non-qualifying cities and towns, such as Petersburg, from mulling a casino. The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee rejected SB203 yesterday by a 9-7 vote.
Richmond Retains License
Virginia’s 2020 casino bill, which ended decades of opposition in the state to Las Vegas-style slot machines and table games, came with qualifying criteria cities must meet in order to consider a gaming project. The conditions include an unemployment rate of at least five percent in 2018 and a poverty rate of at least 20 percent in 2017, plus a minimum population decline of 20 percent experienced between 1990 and 2016.
Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Danville were the five qualifying cities. Voters in all but Richmond passed their local gaming referendums.
Members of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee who voted against Morrissey’s effort to relocate Richmond’s casino rights to Petersburg voiced concerns. They claimed that the 2020 bill did not provide such concessions in the event of voters in a qualifying city rejecting the casino opportunity.
Richmond City Councilor Reva Trammell pleaded before the Senate committee asking for Morrissey’s bill to be tossed. Trammell is leading a council effort to place the casino question before voters in November for a second consecutive year,
Please let us have a second chance in Richmond,” she told state lawmakers.
Trammell got her way, at least for now. Morrissey, who told reporters that he was “thunderstruck” regarding the committee vote, plans to discuss his defeated measure with the Democratic caucus and try and revive the legislation.
The Richmond City Council is already moving forward with ordinances to again ask city dwellers to support a casino initiative. The council has approved of several ordinances introduced by Trammell that renews the city’s host agreement with Urban One, and another to force a second gaming vote.
Urban One is a Black-focused media conglomerate that has partnered with gaming operator Peninsula Pacific Entertainment for its Richmond casino project. The partnership’s proposed $565 million ONE Casino + Resort bid was selected last May as the winner of five proposals by Richmond’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel.