Is it time for Richmond to abandoned its attempts to approve a new brick-and-mortar casino? The editorial board at the Richmond Times-Dispatch thinks so.
Four new Virginia casinos were overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2020 (more on those below), but Richmond has had a tough go at things.
The Times-Dispatch says Richmond — originally the fifth city on the state’s list of new casino host locations — should step back and give Petersburg a chance.
Petersburg giving Richmond a rest?
The Petersburg-Richmond debate is complex. Richmond was among the five cities originally slated for a casino referendum, but numerous roadblocks kept the project from moving forward. Petersburg, on the other hand, has a bevy of community support, plus the land needed for such an undertaking. The Cordish Companies proposed a $1.4 billion development near Wagner Road and off of Interstate 95, if indeed lawmakers approved a project.
However, there’s a wrench in those gears. Petersburg could get approved to hold a referendum. Voters would then be allowed to vote on a sixth Virginia casino, whether or not Richmond’s becomes a reality.
The Cordish Companies would not pursue their Petersburg project if Richmond moved forward with a referendum and, subsequently (contingent on approval), its casino project. According to the Richmond Time-Dispatch: “That would be a mistake.”
The Editorial Board worries that a Richmond casino would cause economic displacement, hurting business at nearby restaurants and other entertainment establishments. Moreover, the op-ed suggests the benefits of a new casino wouldn’t be the windfall many expect.
“People don’t suddenly decide to spend twice as much money on fun and games when a new casino comes to town. If you drop $200 for dinner and poker on a Saturday night, that’s money you’re not spending someplace else — say, the movies, a baseball game, or a concert.”
The Richmond Times-Dispatch keeps its conclusion simple, saying, “Richmond has had its say. It’s time to let Petersburg voters have theirs.”
Rocky road for Virginia casino in Richmond
Richmond’s progress toward a new casino development has been mired by setbacks. Voters rejected an initial proposal by Urban One and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment. The margin was fewer than 2,000 votes.
In March 2022, a judge granted another referendum for a Richmond casino. Then, in August 2022, a Virginia budget amendment pushed the vote — originally scheduled for November of the same year — into 2023.
This would-be attempt is currently sparring with Petersburg’s potential casino. Though officials have said they wouldn’t pursue their own if Richmond moved forward, a lot remains to be seen.
It appears Richmond will have another go at its casino, however. The General Assembly session ending February 25 rejected Petersburg’s proposal for a referendum. Barring further setbacks or delays, the VA capital will put a casino on the ballot come November
Keeping up with the Joneses
Meanwhile, it’s smooth sailing for the four other Virginia cities approved for a casino project.
Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth all approved their casino projects in 2021.