Virginia Voters to Vote - Again - On Richmond Casino

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The inclusion of a casino in Richmond, VA, on the ballot this fall has been authorized by both the Virginia Lottery and the Richmond Circuit Court, as expected. It will give voters another chance to decide if they want a casino, two years after rejecting the idea during state elections.

Time for a Second Chance

The Richmond City Council's decision in June favored the choice of RVA Entertainment Holdings LLC as the casino operator for the upcoming ambitious $562.5-million ONE Casino Resort project in South Richmond. This joint venture between Urban One Inc. and Churchill Downs Inc. emerged as the selected entity, pending approval of the referendum.

In a pivotal decision, the council members cast their vote to engage in a community compact with RVA, as well as solidify a community endorsement agreement involving the city, RVA and Richmond VA Management LLC.

The plans for the casino remain largely unchanged from two years ago, except for the recent acquisition of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment LLC (P2E) by Churchill Downs for $2.75 billion. This addition brings P2E into the picture for the development of ONE Casino Resort, alongside Urban One, a prominent media company headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland. Urban One boasts an extensive portfolio, comprising 55 radio stations and the popular One TV cable network. These entities come together in the 2021 blueprint for the casino project.

Churchill Downs Racecourse, located in Louisville, Kentucky, serves as the headquarters for its parent company. Additionally, this company possesses Colonial Downs Racetrack situated in New Kent County, VA, and oversees six Rosie's Gaming Emporiums across the state. Furthermore, it manages multiple casinos spanning various regions throughout the US.

If the referendum successfully passes, the city will receive $25.5 million as well as an additional $1 million in cash from the developer as part of their increased earnings.

Following the Richmond City Council's decision to allow the new vote, the responsibility shifted to the Virginia Lottery, responsible for overseeing the regulatory procedures of commercial casinos in the state. Simultaneously, the Richmond Circuit Court accepted the inclusion of the ballot on Tuesday.

Long Road to Nowhere

In 2019, the General Assembly's vote greenlit the establishment of casinos in five economically disadvantaged cities across the state. In the subsequent 2020 election, Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth residents granted their approval for the construction of casinos within their respective cities.

Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth currently boast operational casinos, with another one under construction in Norfolk. However, ONE Casino Resort faced disapproval from Richmond voters, who rejected it by a narrow margin of 1,200 votes in November 2021.

Mayor Levar Stoney, alongside various members of the Richmond City Council, expressed their belief that granting the casino another opportunity to garner support from city voters is crucial.

They emphasized that the initial referendum's outcome should not serve as an obstacle to holding a second vote, as the city's constitution does not prohibit it. Despite his best efforts, State Senator Joe Morrissey was unable to successfully block that assertion in this year's General Assembly.

Stoney indicates that the city's yearly earnings from the casino could amount to approximately $30 million.

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