Richmond, Virginia’s pro-casino push concedes defeat in second referendum

After a second attempt, developers of a proposed resort casino in Richmond, Virginia have conceded defeat in their effort to win voters’ approval for the project. The Vote Yes referendum committee, Richmond Wins, released a statement expressing their pride in running a community-centered campaign to create more opportunities for city residents. Despite their efforts, the ballot measure’s outcome has not yet been determined by the Associated Press.

This setback comes after the city narrowly rejected a similar project in 2021. The developers returned with a retooled proposal and invested approximately $10 million in a pro-casino campaign. Their goal was to garner support for the project, which had the backing of Mayor Levar Stoney and major area business groups. However, the endeavor faced organized opposition, with many anti-casino signs emphasizing the city’s previous rejection of a similar proposal.

The proposed Richmond Grand Resort and Casino, a joint venture between Urban One and Churchill Downs, would have been located on a former tobacco company site in south Richmond. The plans included a variety of gambling options, a 250-room hotel, an outdoor park, dining options, and a concert venue. Boosters estimated the casino would create 1,300 permanent jobs and bring substantial financial benefits to the city.

Despite the enthusiasm of supporters, opponents raised concerns about the potential negative impact of the casino. These included arguments that it would extract wealth from the working class and exacerbate problem gambling. Additionally, the developers had to apologize to a leading project opponent, Paul Goldman, after an Urban One radio host made widely condemned antisemitic remarks about him.

In 2020, Virginia lawmakers approved legislation allowing for the construction of five casinos around the state, contingent on securing voter approval. Three casinos have already opened in Bristol, Portsmouth, and Danville, with a fourth in progress in Norfolk. Despite this defeat in Richmond, the casino landscape in Virginia continues to evolve as developers and voters navigate the complex and contentious issue of gambling expansion in the state.