The beginning of the week saw a City Council Committee in Richmond recommend the authorization of a do-over for an updated casino proposal in the southern part of the city. If the effort is successful, a ballot measure could be scheduled later this year, two years after local voters voted against a proposed casino venue in November 2021.
One of the City Council members – Reva Trammell – confirmed that a referendum could take place this fall. Some members of the public, however, questioned whether another referendum on the matter was necessary, saying that local people have already voted against the establishment of a casino venue in the city.
The organizational development committee of Richmond City Council pushed forward three casino-related resolutions that are set to be considered at the full council meeting that is set to take place on June 12th.
So far, it was clarified that RVA Entertainment Holdings LLC – which was established as a collaboration between the casino and horse track operator Colonial Downs and the media and entertainment company Urban ONE – would operate the casino venue in the city. The targeted opening for the gaming floor of the planned casino resort will take place in May 2026, as the committee learned. If selected, RVA Entertainment Holdings is set to pay $25.5 million to the city of Richmond within 30 days of a referendum passing.
Opponents Criticize New Casino Referendum Opportunity
According to the results of some city studies, the $562.5-million development would create 1,300 jobs in south Richmond. Furthermore, a study found that the establishment of the proposed casino is expected to bring general fund revenue of about $29.7 million on an annual basis.
A similar proposal involving RVA Entertainment Holdings was unanimously approved by Richmond City Council in July 2021.
The critics of the project have argued that a casino would have a detrimental impact on the most vulnerable people in the area and contribute to the increase in gambling addiction rates. So far, Richmond is the only one of five cities that the General Assembly selected in 2020 to have a casino that has not built one yet. The other four cities – Danville, Norfolk, Bristol, and Portsmouth – have all set up casinos after local residents gave their approval at referendums.
The city of Richmond had another vote planned for 2022 but a state budget provision prevented it from taking place. For the time being, the 2023 update to the state budget is still not passed, and budget negotiators are not expected to reach a settlement until later in June at the earliest.
The past five years have seen a massive expansion of Virginia’s gambling and gaming sector. As the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission of Virginia’s General Assembly revealed, while in 2018 only three forms of gambling were officially permitted in the state – the state-run lottery, betting on horse races, and charitable gaming – now there are a few other gambling services available, including sports betting, historical horse racing machines, and so-called “skill-based” electronic gaming machines.