Failed Richmond Casino Developer Considering Second Referendum Effort

Posted on: December 6, 2021, 08:55h. 

Last updated on: December 6, 2021, 09:52h.

The company behind the Richmond casino referendum that voters rejected last month is mulling a campaign to ask the question again to residents in the Virginia capital.

Richmond casino Virginia election referendum
Campaign signs for and against the Richmond casino ballot question last month are seen outside a polling center. While the gaming question was rejected, the developers behind the project might be considering a second run. (Image: Twitter)

Urban One, a national media conglomerate focused on Black America, partnered with casino operator Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) to propose a $565 million gaming resort next to the Philip Morris tobacco plant along I-95.

Richmond voters narrowly rejected the local referendum during the November election. However, the disappointing result hasn’t fully ended Urban One and P2E’s casino ambitions for Virginia.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that an effort is underway to ask Richmonders again about a casino. This time, messaging that hones in on the different benefits of allowing the more than half of a billion-dollar investment to proceed will be developed. Richmond City Councilwoman Reva Trammell confirmed that a signature collection process is underway for a second gaming ballot initiative.

Polling Returns

Richmond residents have recently reported being contacted by polling services to gauge how they voted in November and why. Though Urban One and P2E haven’t confirmed they are behind the surveys, the pollsters’ activity could hint that the casino group isn’t ready to fold on the capital region.

Clearly they think that with slightly different messaging they would have the opportunity to win if it came again,” Bob Holsworth, a veteran political analyst and former Virginia Commonwealth University dean, told the Times-Dispatch.

Holsworth explains that Urban One and P2E believe the odds of gaining authorization from voters would be better if they more strongly promote the fiscal benefits the casino would deliver Richmond.

There are no concrete laws that would prevent Richmond from holding another gaming referendum. But the city would presumably need to reopen the bidding process and select a casino proposal before moving it before voters.

Nearby City Seeks Casino

Soon after Richmond said no to a casino, officials in Petersburg publicly voiced their willingness to welcome such a resort. Located about 20 air miles south of the Virginia capital, Petersburg Mayor Samuel Parham says his town is ripe for the project.

Parham explains that “several of the casino guys” who were in Richmond have recently been exploring Petersburg. Parham is joined by several state lawmakers looking to Petersburg following Richmond’s rejection of the casino.

“It can transform the City of Petersburg,” declared Parham.

The path for a casino question to go before Petersburg voters is far more complicated than asking Richmond residents the question again. That’s because of the commercial gaming law Virginia passed last year. That law only allows certain cities that meet a slew of economic hardships to ask their residents if they want to use casino development to spark the economy.

Petersburg, unlike Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Danville, did not meet all of the qualifying conditions. As a result, for a casino referendum to reach the polls in Petersburg, a state legislative effort is required.

Virginia Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) says he plans to ask the legislature to back an amendment to the 2020 gaming bill that will allow Petersburg to acquire Richmond’s casino privileges.

That effort will presumably draw significant opposition from the casinos being built in Norfolk and Portsmouth, as Petersburg is between Richmond and the Hampton Roads area.