RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Two state lawmakers have asked Gov. Glenn Youngkin to direct the Virginia attorney general’s office to use its legal authority to keep Richmond from having a second casino referendum in November.
In a joint letter to Youngkin, state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) and Del. Kim Taylor (R-Dinwiddie) wrote they were reaching out to inform him of “the potentially illegal actions of the City of Richmond.”
“It has come to our attention that Richmond is considering placing a referendum on the November, 2022, ballot that would ask city voters whether or not to approve of a casino in Richmond,” they wrote Thursday.
Morrissey and Taylor, two lawmakers who got behind Petersburg’s bid to have a casino, noted language in the state budget that blocks Richmond from holding another casino referendum until November 2023.
The official Twitter account for Richmond’s Office of Elections posted on July 27 that “as of right now, the casino referendum will be on the November ballot. But that may change based on guidance from City Hall. Once the dust settles, we will notify everyone accordingly.”
The city’s general registrar, Keith Balmer, told 8News after that tweet was published that his office had not received any details from city officials about adding a referendum for casino gambling.
Morrissey and Taylor received a similar answer from Balmer when they asked him for specifics, according to the letter.
“Specifically, Mr. Balmer informed us that ‘the City of Richmond has not told me whether or not to include the casino referendum on the ballot this year.’ We find this answer unacceptable and shows Richmond’s intent to possibly ignore the law,” the lawmakers wrote to Youngkin.
A Richmond judge granted the city’s request to have a second referendum added to the 2022 ballot in March, but that was before the Virginia General Assembly approved the state budget.
When the budget was approved in June, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney signaled that the city was weighing its legal options.
“We’re disappointed the Virginia General Assembly has amended the state budget in a way that will deliberately harm the City of Richmond by denying economic opportunities for its residents,” Stoney said in a statement then.
When reached for a comment about the letter sent to Youngkin, a spokesperson for Stoney declined to comment directly and instead recommended that 8News attend a community meeting in Richmond’s Southside 8th Voter District on Thursday hosted by councilmember Reva Trammell.
Trammell, who pushed the casino proposal that city voters narrowly rejected in 2021, continues to be a vocal supporter of a casino in her district in South Richmond. She will be joined by Stoney, Balmer and the owner and CEO of Urban One, the developer behind the city’s plans for a casino.
Thursday’s meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Satellite Restaurant & Lounge located at 4000 Richmond Highway.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.