Richmond Casino Question Rejected, $565M Resort Canned

Posted on: November 3, 2021, 08:54h. 

Last updated on: November 3, 2021, 09:58h.

The Richmond casino referendum outcome in Virginia was expected to be close. And close it was, as it took until Wednesday morning around 10 am to declare an outcome.

Virginia Richmond casino Urban One
Richmond casino signs outside a polling place in the Virginia capital hyped the benefits of allowing a gambling property to come to town. But city residents narrowly rejected the local ballot referendum. (Image: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Urban One, a publicly traded media conglomerate, and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E), a casino operator, were seeking to jointly build a $565 million casino resort near the Philip Morris tobacco plant along I-95. But they first needed local approval from Richmond voters in the Virginia capital city. That approval didn’t come.

Roughly 15 hours after the polls closed, Richmond election officials deemed the referendum a failure. Approximately 51.4 percent of local voters rejected the Urban One/P2E casino pitch.

From the beginning, we said the people would decide. They have spoken, and we must respect their decision,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D) said in a prepared statement. The mayor was one of the more outspoken proponents of bringing commercial casino gambling to the city.

“While I believe this was a $565 million opportunity lost to create well-paying jobs, expand opportunity, keep taxes low, and increase revenue to meet the needs of our growing city, I am proud of the transparent and public process we went through to listen to our residents and put this opportunity before our voters,” the mayor concluded.

First Virginia Casino Rejection

Virginia passed commercial gambling legislation last year. But only certain cities facing economic hardship, as defined by a set of criteria, qualified to host such a resort. Five cities that met the conditions opted to move forward with casinos — Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol.

The handful of qualifying locations need local approval before moving forward with a gaming resort. Those other four cities each passed successful casino referendums during the 2020 election.

ONE Casino + Resort unsuccessfully tried to win over Richmonders into backing its more than a half-billion-dollar undertaking. Virginia native Missy Elliott this week declared her support for the casino in a Twitter video that she has since taken down in the referendum’s defeat.

ONE Casino was dubbed as the first Black-owned casino in the United States. Its targeted location in Richmond, a city with deep ties to the Confederacy that lingers today with its Monument Avenue that pays tribute to many of the south’s Civil War leaders, seemed most appropriate.

But Richmonders said “No” to the casino. Richmond still voted heavily in favor of Democrats yesterday, former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe receiving more than 77 percent of the city vote despite losing the gubernatorial election statewide.

ONE Casino Relocation Potential

Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins said prior to Election Day that if Richmonders don’t want his casino, he’ll take it elsewhere.

If it doesn’t pass in the city of Richmond, I believe that the General Assembly will ultimately look to put it in a locality in and around Richmond in Central Virginia in one of the outlying counties that does want it. I do not believe that the General Assembly and the governor will want to leave Central Virginia without a gaming opportunity,” Liggins stated last week.

This morning, Liggins said he was “extremely disappointed,” but accepted “the will of Richmond residents.” Urban One shares plummeted on the news, with shares down nearly 40 percent as of this writing.