Virginia Budget Proposal Would Block Richmond Casino Revote Until 2023

Home » Virginia Budget Proposal Would Block Richmond Casino Revote Until 2023

Posted on: February 23, 2022, 10:55h. 

Last updated on: February 23, 2022, 02:43h.

A Virginia budget proposal approved by the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee would prevent Richmond from again asking residents for at least a year whether they support bringing a casino to the capital region.

Virginia casino Richmond Urban One Peninsula Pacific
A rendering of the proposed $565 million ONE Casino + Resort that voters in Richmond, Virginia, rejected during the 2022 election is seen. A state budget package as currently written would prevent the capital from asking residents to weigh in on the casino again in 2022. (Image: Urban One)

The 2022 Budget Bill — as the cluster of associated legislation is collectively identified — includes a provision that would essentially prohibit the Richmond City Council from proceeding with a second local referendum question regarding a commercial casino.

The Budget Bill would instead direct Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review (JLAR) Commission to conduct a probe of possibly allowing Petersburg to mull a gaming development. If the findings are viewed as beneficial to Petersburg and that the resort would not impede on the four casinos in Virginia that have already been approved, the city could receive state authorization to hold its own gaming referendum.

The 2022 budget blueprint would require Richmond to stand by as the JLAR-led inquiry into Petersburg’s legitimacy is completed.

After receiving the Appropriations’ blessing, the 2022 Budget Bill moves to the full Senate chamber. If it gains majority support there, the financial omnibus would head into final negations with the House of Delegates.

Richmond Officials Disappointed

Richmond was supposed to be the big prize in Virginia’s 2020 legalization of commercial casino gambling. The state capital was one of five cities that qualified to consider a casino resort under the legislation designed to spur economic activity in the distressed cities.

Richmond fielded five qualifying casino bids. The list of interested companies included big names — Golden Nugget, Bally’s, and Live! to name a few. But Richmond officials went with Urban One, a Black-focused media conglomerate with zero gaming experience.

Richmond residents narrowly rejected Urban One’s $565 million project called ONE Casino + Resort. City officials, including Mayor Levar Stoney and the City Council, have since supported efforts to ask residents to reconsider the undertaking.

The council last month passed ordinances to reestablish its development agreements with Urban One and its casino partner, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E). That laid the groundwork for a second casino referendum, this one to be held on November 8, 2022.

The Budget Bill would override Richmond City’s attempts for a second casino vote.

“I am disappointed in Senate Democrats for inserting a prohibition on the city of Richmond in their budget proposal,” said Stoney, a Democrat himself. “Nonetheless, I remain optimistic something will be worked out between the chambers that will allow for Richmond to pursue this game-changing opportunity again.”

Virginia Gaming Odds and Ends

Urban One’s Richmond casino partner Peninsula Pacific this week agreed to be acquired by Churchill Downs.

In Virginia, the roughly $2.5 billion agreement, pending regulatory approvals, will give Churchill Downs the Colonial Downs Racetrack and its Rosie’s historical horse racing (HHR) gaming parlors. Churchill will additionally assume P2E’s development plans in Dumfries for a $400 million gaming resort featuring HHR terminals.

The takeover also provides Churchill partnership rights with Urban One to build ONE Casino + Resort, should city residents approve of the plan in the future.

Finally, in Bristol — one of the four cities that ratified a casino during the 2020 election — Hard Rock International has named Allie Evangelista the president of its forthcoming casino.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol is being built at the former Bristol Mall. The casino is set to open a temporary gaming space before July. The permanent $300 million resort is on track to open in 2023 or 2024.

Evangelista arrives from Penn National Gaming, where she oversaw the company’s Hollywood Casino Perryville in Maryland.

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