Richmond Casino Revote Effort Advances, But Initiative Has Hurdles to Clear

Posted on: January 21, 2022, 03:26h. 

Last updated on: January 21, 2022, 03:35h.

A Richmond City Council committee this week advanced two resolutions that seek to allow the Virginia capital to hold a second vote on a proposed $565 million casino resort.

Richmond casino Reva Trammell Levar Stoney Virginia
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Councilmember Reva Trammell speak with the media during a September 2020 event regarding new public greenspace. Trammell is leading the effort to ask city residents again whether they support authorizing a casino to spur regional economic activity. (Image: City of Richmond)

Richmond residents faced a local referendum during last November’s election regarding a proposed commercial development called ONE Casino + Resort. Richmond voters narrowly rejected the casino pitch by a 51-49 tally.

City Councilor Reva Trammell, whose district borders where ONE Casino was to be built adjacent to the Philip Morris manufacturing complex along I-95 south of the city, says a second vote is warranted. She opines Richmond stands to have too much to lose by not welcoming the more than half a billion-dollar investment.

Trammell’s ordinances introduced to the Richmond City Council were unanimously approved yesterday by the council’s Finance and Economic Development Standing Committee. With the committee’s blessing, the ordinances now move to the full council for further consideration.

The City Council has posted a public notice regarding a hearing scheduled for Monday, January 24 at 6:00 pm to consider a re-do on the casino matter.

Public Split

Trammell introduced Ordinance No. 2022-014 and No. 2022-015 in response to strong feedback from her constituents who support bringing commercial casino gambling to the Virginia capital.

So many people have been calling me from not only my eighth district but all over saying that they definitely want to have another chance to vote on the ONE Casino because it would bring in jobs,” Trammell said this week. “It would restart the economic development all over in the Southside.”

Trammell added that “people are just begging” for another vote.

Exit polling last November theorized that more affluent neighborhoods north of the James River voted as much as 2-1 against ONE Casino + Resort. More impoverished communities around the Southside lent more support to Richmond becoming a casino town.

Race has been thrown into the matter. Urban One, the company behind the ONE Casino bid, is a media conglomerate that comes with the tagline, “Representing Black America.”

Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins has opined that Richmond’s rejection of its casino plan is yet another black eye on the city’s “dismal track record when it comes to economic inclusion for African Americans.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D), who identifies as African American, said recently that many city minority residents say they love their hometown, but don’t feel Richmond loves them back.

“That’s devastating to hear,” the mayor stated.

Potential Impediment

Even if the full Richmond City Council passes Trammell’s two ordinances — one which would renew the city’s host agreement with Urban One, and the other to initiate a second vote on the matter next fall — potential roadblocks stand in the way before the issue reaches the polls.

Most consequential is a commitment from state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond), who says he will introduce legislation on the state level that would block Richmond from hosting a second casino referendum. Morrissey says a revote goes against the Democratic process.