Richmond City Council vote one step closer to putting casino referendum on November ballot


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The future of the Urban ONE Casino + Resort is one step closer to being in the hands of city voters. Richmond City Council voted on Monday to move forward with the casino process.

The city council approved the addition of the referendum in an 8-1 vote. The passed resolution, RES No. 2021-R034, reads, “To select RVA Entertainment Holdings, LLC, as the City’s preferred casino gaming operator to operate a casino gaming establishment located at 2001 Walmsley Boulevard and 4700 Trenton Avenue and to provide for the requisite referendum thereon pursuant to Va. Code § 58.1-4123.”

Katherine Jordan, who represents the city’s second district, was the only council member to vote against it, sparking frustration from Reva Trammell, who represents the eighth district where the casino would be built.

“You told me you would support me for my people, Black and brown and white, for me to have this One Casino in my district. If you’re not as good as your word, that’s pretty bad,” Trammell said after Jordan voted against moving forward.

Before the vote, Jordan expressed her conflicted feelings. 

“I’m really torn on this vote,” she said.

“My constituents overwhelmingly said not only did they not want a casino in Scott’s Addition, but they didn’t want one, period, when they reached out to me,” said Jordan. “But then in our board packet today, we had over 750 emails in support of Urban One and we had seven against.”

“Tonight, we heard from, I think, 15 in favor, nine against. I checked my email. I’ve gotten 13 direct emails against the paper, that’s it. Once Cordish was out of the mix, the opposition really seemed to dry up in the second [district] so that gives me pause…,” the councilwoman said.

Council members heard from several residents during public comment Monday night.

“One Casino has a commitment to become a significant community and philanthropic partner here in the city, and I am so impressed by that,” said Resident Dr. Monroe Harris.

Resident Richard Walker, however, expressed his opposition. “In reality, their major corporate greed will reap benefits and it will not trickle down to the community. I am 110 percent against it,” he said.

If built, ONE Casino + Resort will be at the site of the former Philip Morris Operations Center in Richmond’s southside.

The city and the casino provider have come to agreement terms. The vote to add the referendum to the ballot shows city support for those terms, which will be finalized and voted on officially this summer.

There are still some steps left between now and when voters decide the casino’s fate. The city’s choice to go with Urban ONE’s casino plan and the old Philip Morris location will be submitted to the Virginia Lottery Board for pre-certification.

Once the plan is pre-certified, and the City Council approves a full Host Community Agreement, a petition will be made to the Circuit Court to get the voter referendum on the ballot Nov. 2.

“ONE Casino + Resort is a $562.5 million project that will create 1,300 well-paying jobs with benefits in South Richmond, and every Richmond resident will benefit from the new revenue created by the project,” said Mayor Stoney.  “City Council’s vote tonight paves the way for every voting Richmond resident to have their voice heard on this important project.”

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