Richmond’s city attorney office and a nonprofit have been given 3pm Friday 18 August to file legal arguments regarding the Virginia state capital having another vote on permitting a new casino in the state.
Local news outlet 8News reports that Richmond Circuit Court Judge William R. Marchant, who signed off on the initial July order to add a citywide referendum to the November ballot, made the decision to give time for legal opposition – on the same day it was due to be finalized.
The nonprofit Richmond Lodge No. 1 of the Good Lions, Inc which holds charitable gaming twice a week at a venue in Richmond has filed motions to intervene, to attempt to block the city from asking voters if they want to see a casino resort in Richmond’s Southside. Judge Marchant granted a motion to suspend the court order, and give the city’s attorney and Good Lions the chance to submit legal arguments.
The city’s attorney argued that the delay in the process would cause “great uncertainty” on notifying the public and putting the question on the ballot. The judge dismissed claims, emphasizing that there would be “plenty of time” for the city to follow state law and give notice to voters in a newspaper at least once a week for a minimum of three straight weeks.
Richmond as a city has pushed for a casino project since its narrow defeat in a 2021 ballot. This June, the City Council approved a proposal from a joint venture of Urban One Inc. and Churchill Downs for a $562 million state-of-the-art casino resort. Approval was granted by the Virginia lottery, and thus a petition was filed for a court order to permit a second referendum. Richmond Lodge is seeking to put another spanner in the works, however.
What is the nonprofit’s argument?
The motion is as follows:
- The Richmond City Council violated the Virginia Constitution by not allowing a complete public bidding process for the project granted to the joint venture.
- Good Lions’ has asked the court to check the process used to grant developers the contract, specifically Urban One for a second time, without a formal bidding process.
What benefit would a prospective casino project bring?
Should judge Marchant rule in favor of the city, voters will have a vote in November. The accepted proposal promises the following:
- 1,300 new jobs
- A hotel, entertainment venues, a casino, a sportsbook, restaurant and 55 acre park
- $26.5 million upfront payment
Virginia’s retail market is undergoing significant change, after the opening of the state’s first temporary casino facility in 2022. Casino projects in the likes of Bristol, Danville, Norfolk a nd Portsmouth are all due to open. Richmond is the fifth land-based casino authorized under state law – but the citywide referendum remains a hurdle.
If the vote succeeds, the land based venue will be able to operate a retail sportsbook in addition to electronic gaming devices and table games. Currently, Virginia runs online sports betting, and the only sort of casino in Virginia is electronic gaming devices at racetracks based on historic racing.