Richmond Councilmember Not Ready to Fold on City Casino, Seeks 2022 Referendum

Posted on: December 13, 2021, 10:06h. 

Last updated on: December 13, 2021, 10:31h.

Richmond voters made their voices heard in November when they rejected a proposed commercial casino development in the Virginia capital. But a city official believes residents should nonetheless be asked again about the issue.

Richmond casino Urban One Casino P2E
Richmond Councilmember Reva Trammell, seen here in 2020 inside the city’s Town Hall, wants area residents to again weigh in on a casino proposal that they rejected last month. But some say such an initiative goes against the democratic process. (Image: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Urban One and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E)’s proposed $565 million project, dubbed ONE Casino + Resort, was selected earlier this year by the City of Richmond as its preferred casino development. Richmond is one of five cities that qualified to consider a gaming development under Virginia’s commercial gaming legislation, passed in 2020.

But last month, a little more than 51 percent of Richmond voters rejected ONE Casino. Richmond was the only casino qualifier of the five to opt against a gaming undertaking.

Richmond City Councilmember Reva Trammel believes a second election on the gaming matter should be held during the 2022 midterms.

This is the place where it [casino] should have been, where it needs to come back,” Trammel told 8News recently.

Trammel represents the 8th voter district, where ONE Casino was targeted. While Urban One and P2E haven’t hinted whether they would be open to a second local referendum, a state senator in Virginia plans to block such a potential vote from occurring.

State Legislative Effort

There are opponents to Trammel’s effort to hold another casino referendum in Richmond. State Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-16th District), whose district includes the Greater Richmond region, is planning to introduce legislation in the Virginia capital that would impede a second gaming referendum in the city.

Morrissey’s bill, if passed and signed by the governor, would bar Richmond from asking city residents about gaming for a minimum of five years.

We have to respect the democratic vote,” Morrissey declared.

The state senator likened Trammel’s efforts to a politician narrowly losing an election and demanding another vote the following year. Morrissey stated that another Richmond casino referendum would go against the democratic process.

Morrissey’s Richmond gaming bill might not be the only piece of legislation introduced in the State Capitol regarding casino efforts in the capital region. Officials in nearby Petersburg say they would gladly welcome ONE Casino + Resort. But doing so would require state lawmakers and the governor to allow gaming to come to a small town that’s located about 20 miles south of Richmond.

Prior to the November election, Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins said the company would explore other locations for the casino project should the Richmond vote fail.

“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 opined.

P2E Losing Streak

It’s been a disappointing few weeks for Peninsula Pacific Entertainment. A little more than a month after Richmond voters denied the company and Urban One entry to the Virginia capital, P2E suffered a similar defeat in Louisiana.

This past weekend, voters in Slidell, La., said no to P2E’s wishes to build a $325 million casino resort on Lake Pontchartrain, some 20 miles northeast of New Orleans. Peninsula Pacific was wishing to relocate its gaming operations from Bossier City to Slidell. P2E permanently closed its DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City last year.

In Virginia, however, P2E is still invested in the state, despite the Richmond rejection. P2E owns and operates the Colonial Downs Racetrack and Rosie’s Gaming Emporium. Rosie’s additionally has historical horse racing (HHR) gaming and PointsBet sports betting locations in Richmond, Vinton, Hampton, Dumfries, and Collinsville.