RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond can have another casino vote this November — two years after voters in the city narrowly rejected a project from one of the developers behind the latest effort.
The Virginia Lottery last week approved a preliminary application from the City and RVA Entertainment Holdings – a joint venture of Urban One Inc. and Churchill Downs – for casino gambling at a proposed $562 million resort and entertainment complex in South Richmond.
A Richmond Circuit Court judge signed a court order Tuesday allowing the city’s top election official to add a citywide referendum for the casino project on the Nov. 7 ballot.
“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,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said in a statement.
The proposed project, according to the developers, would include a luxury hotel, venues for live entertainment and conferences, table games, slots, a sportsbook, dining options and a 55-acre park and green space.
If passed, developers said that Richmond would receive one-time upfront payments of $26.5 million for the project and that the casino resort would be built at 2001 Walmsley Boulevard and 4700 Trenton Avenue.
“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,” Stoney added.
Richmond has continued to push for a casino project since voters narrowly rejected Urban One’s proposal in November 2021, and a state budget provision kept a second referendum off the 2022 ballot.
The Richmond City Council approved an updated casino resort proposal in June to give Urban One — with a partner — another chance at being the city’s casino gaming operator.
Urban One is a Maryland-based media conglomerate that owns several radio stations across the country, and television networks, including TV One. Churchill Downs owns and operates horse tracks — including the home of the Kentucky Derby — and casinos in the U.S.
“We are proud of the service we continue to provide through various community and business partnerships and are talking to local leaders and citizens about the kinds of entertainment options, jobs, and community benefits they want to see included in this project,” Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins said in a statement Tuesday.
Last year, Richmond was granted a court order for a second referendum that was ultimately removed after language was added to the state budget keeping it from being added to the ballot in 2022.
The move led to criticism from Stoney, who said the city was considering its legal options. But Liggins said the budget language “created a conflict, a legal conflict and a huge cloud of doubt” over the city’s plans for a second referendum and that the company would pursue the project in 2023 instead of 2022.
While Richmond has been granted another court order, the budget could again derail its hopes for a casino in the city.
Negotiators have told 8News they are still considering how to move forward with Virginia’s casino projects, including weighing whether to keep the number of eligible cities to five or reduce it down to four — a scenario that would grind Richmond’s casino dreams to a halt.
The project’s developers said they plan to unveil a new design and their vision for the casino resort “in the coming weeks” that includes community feedback.