Richmond Casino Project Back From Dead, as Councilwoman Pitches Second Public Vote

Posted on: January 8, 2022, 12:25h. 

Last updated on: January 7, 2022, 02:45h.

The rejected Richmond casino proposal that more than 51 percent of city residents voted against last November could find its way to the ballot for a second time.

Richmond casino Urban One Virginia gambling
A map shows where ONE Casino + Resort was to be built in Richmond, Va. But Richmond voters opted against the $565 million development during the November 2021 election. (Image: WRIC)

Richmond residents in the Virginia capital city said “no” in November to allowing a commercial casino resort to be built. It would have been located adjacent to the Philip Morris tobacco manufacturing plant along I-95. The project came from Urban One, a publicly traded, Black-focused media conglomerate, and casino firm Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E).

Virginia passed a gaming bill in 2020. That allowed a handful of economically struggling cities to ask their constituents whether a casino development should be used to spark investment and business activity in their regions. Five cities qualified, and four passed their gaming initiatives that year. Richmond was the lone city to refuse a casino opportunity.

November’s election outcome denying ONE Casino + Resort from moving forward was a blow to Urban One/P2E, as well as some city officials, who believed the $565 million venture would help revitalize the capital metro. But ONE Casino’s fate might not be fully determined, should Richmond City Councilmember Reva Trammell have her way.

Richmond Revote

Trammell isn’t accepting “No” as the answer to the Richmond casino proposition. Almost immediately after Richmond voters rejected the local question, the city councilwoman – whose 8th District butts up against the 6th District on the city’s southside, where the casino was targeted – announced her intent to challenge the outcome.

The councilwoman explained this week that she plans to introduce a resolution on Monday that will seek to hold a second referendum on the gaming topic. Trammell’s resolution will first be subject to public hearings before a council vote can occur.

The council believes that it is in the best interest of the city of Richmond that the city again select RVA Entertainment Holdings, LLC (Urban One/P2E) as the city’s preferred casino gaming operator and … for the city to proceed to a referendum,” Trammell’s resolution reads.

Opponents to such an effort argue a second vote goes against the will of the people and democracy.

“We have to respect the democratic vote,” said state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-16th District. Morrissey represents Richmond in the state capital.

The Democratic state lawmaker has threatened to introduce legislation that would block Richmond from holding a second referendum on the ONE Casino project, should the City Council move forward with Trammel’s resolution.

CEO Expresses Grievances

Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins recently wrote an op-ed in the Richmond Free Press detailing his disappointment with the November vote regarding his company’s casino plan. Liggins says the vote was yet another blow to the Black community.

“The state of Virginia has had a dismal track record when it comes to economic inclusion for African-Americans, especially as it pertains to the award of meaningful contracts and providing equal access to economic development opportunities to Black businesses. While this may be our history, it does not have to dictate our future,” Liggins wrote.

The Urban One boss opined that the four casinos approved in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Danville are going to “white, out-of-state billionaires, and the members of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.”

Liggins is urging the Black community to step up in Richmond and make their voices better heard.

The Richmond casino license represents the last opportunity for Black inclusion in Virginia’s casino gambling gold rush,” Liggins wrote.