Virginia casino efforts in Richmond could be up in the air after time ran out on a city agreement with its preferred casino partner.
Both democracy and bureaucracy created setbacks for a $563 million Urban One Resort + Casino project on the south side of the capital city.
The democracy hurdle — Richmond is one of five cities with permission to build a casino in Virginia. But approval relies on public election support. Richmond didn’t get it.
Voters narrowly rejected a November 2021 proposal from the city and its preferred partner. The sides wanted to try again in the 2022 election cycle but …
The bureaucracy hurdle — Some members of the Virginia General Assembly are using the failed 2021 vote to stall Richmond’s bid. Lawmakers in the region successfully inserted budget language to block a Richmond vote in 2022.
The VA delegates will use the delay to a study nearby Petersburg as a potential site instead. It’s not a coincidence that a key incumbent had his district boundaries shift to include Petersburg — and less of Richmond.
Richmond gave up on a 2022 Virginia Casino vote
The media conglomerate Urban One wanted to make Urban One Resort + Casino the first Black-majority-owned casino in the country. At first, Urban One and the city of Richmond planned to sue the state over the casino-stalling budget amendment. Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins abandoned the idea on Aug. 4:
“Despite strong legal arguments to support moving forward in 2022, we have asked our partner, the city of Richmond, to withdraw their petition for a November 2022 ballot referendum because we feel a long protracted legal dispute at this time does not best serve the citizens of Richmond or the state of Virginia. We are now focused on winning the Richmond casino referendum in 2023.”
It’s possible Urban One and Richmond will simply restructure their partnership to fit the 2023 timeline. Jeremy M. Lazarus of the Richmond Free Press touched base with a political strategist who sees competition for Urban One, however.
Paul Goldman texted Lazarus on Sept 19 and told the reporter:
“State law does not intend for city officials to treat a casino as something they can simply hand out to their political friends for their own personal reasons.”
Goldman also told Lazarus in a text that Richmond residents deserve a fair city council and election process. He said it should be free from any hint of favoritism.
One Resort + Casino plans as of now
Developers could change plans with the new timeline. But, for now, project details call for 100,000 square feet of gaming space including:
- More than 1,800 slot machines
- Over 100 table games
- A poker room
- And a high-tech sportsbook
Legacy Tower includes 250 hotel rooms with a city view. The resort also features a business center, fitness room and 55 acres of green space. Developers designed Rise Theater to welcome more than 250,000 guests for 200 live shows.
One Resort + Casino plans call for 15 distinct restaurants and bars as well.
Peninsula Pacific Entertainment would operate the $563 million casino complex.
If Richmond voters sign off on 2023 casino plans, One Resort + Casino becomes the fifth Virginia casino. It would draw about 3.7 million guests each year, according to the project’s official website.
One Resort + Casino would have a South Richmond location near the Philip Morris manufacturing center and Interstate 95.