Virginia Casino Vote Receives Green Light

A casino referendum in Richmond, Va., is one step closer to the November ballot following approvals from a local judge and the state lottery.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney gestures during a news conference at City Hall. Stoney praised decisions from a local court and state regulators approving plans for a new casino vote this year. (Image: AP)

The Richmond Office of Elections announced Tuesday that it had received an order from the Circuit Court of Richmond authorizing the ballot measure for November. That move followed approval last week by the Virginia Lottery of a preliminary application to build the casino, according to project organizers.

Richmond voters narrowly rejected a similar casino proposal in 2021, but city leaders are hoping for a different outcome this year. The city council voted 8-1 last month to put the question on the ballot again.

Leaders Praise Decision

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney welcomed Tuesday’s developments.

I am excited to see the Virginia Lottery and the Richmond Circuit Court approve the referendum for a Richmond destination-resort and entertainment venue that will provide 1,300 good-paying jobs and an estimated $30 million in annual revenue to tackle our community’s greatest needs,” Stoney said in a statement Tuesday. “Richmond is experiencing record development and growth, and with the addition of a destination resort we will change the economic trajectory of Southside for years to come.”

The proposed $562 million casino and resort would be developed by Churchill Downs Incorporated and Urban One, Inc., a Baltimore-based media company.

“Our company has proven success in the development and operations of premier entertainment, gaming, and racing venues that deliver tangible and meaningful benefits for our host communities,” Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Incorporated said in a statement. “We look forward to delivering on this mission and vision in Richmond.”

The developers said they plan to unveil a “new design and vision” for the project in the coming weeks.

Earlier proposals called for a hotel, spa, restaurants, and entertainment venues to be built along with the casino.

Next Steps

The approval by the judge and lottery regulators are key milestones to put the casino question back on the ballot, but one potential hurdle remains: the state legislature.

Outgoing state Sen. Jim Morrissey (D) wants to see a casino built in Petersburg, about 25 miles to the south, instead of in Richmond. He succeeded in getting language into the state budget last year blocking a casino vote, but budget negotiations have stalled this year, diminishing his odds of success.

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that blocking the casino via the state budget remains a possibility this year, but the issue is likely to be among the last decided in ongoing negotiations.

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