RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Petersburg’s pursuit of hosting a $1.4 billion casino resort and derailing Richmond’s second chance at a project remains alive, but the real test still awaits.
The Democrat-led Virginia Senate General Laws and Technology Committee advanced a bill from Del. Kim Taylor (R-Dinwiddie) Wednesday that would let Petersburg put a question on ballots this November for voters to decide whether they want to bring a casino project to the city.
Del. Taylor’s measure now heads to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, where a similar bill from state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) died. Taylor didn’t predict how the bill would fare in the committee but said she was “very excited” about the panel’s vote Wednesday.
“We’ve got great momentum, so we’re just looking forward to pushing this through and advancing the legislation for a referendum,” Taylor told 8News after the 9-4 vote.
Taylor’s legislation, the last surviving bill for a Petersburg casino referendum, would allow voters to approve the proposed $1.4 billion casino project from The Cordish Companies that the city has already approved.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), a member of both the Senate committees who voted for Sen. Morrissey’s bill twice, flipped his vote Wednesday after the panel rejected a substitute bill requiring workers on the project and casino to be paid a “prevailing wage.”
Virginia lawmakers passed legislation to allow five cities to become eligible for a casino. With four already approved, two cities are angling for the last spot: Petersburg and Richmond.
A Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study found having casinos in both cities could work, leading to chatter about changes to make six cities eligible for a referendum. When asked about that potential path, Del. Taylor said her focus was on Petersburg’s bid.
“Well, I’m focusing on the Petersburg casino and getting that referendum because I want the voters in Petersburg to have a choice and have a vote on their future, their city,” she told 8News.
While the JLARC report said the casinos could coexist, a representative from Petersburg’s chosen casino developer, Cordish COO Zed Smith, told the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee during the discussion over Morrissey’s bill that the $1.4 billion project would not be able to move forward as proposed with a Richmond casino.
The proposed project from Cordish, which has a price tag more than double the price of Richmond’s effort with Urban One, would be built in multiple phases if approved by Petersburg voters.
Cordish’s proposed plan calls for the construction of a 4 million-square-foot casino resort on Petersburg’s south side next to the Interstate 95 interchange at Wagner Road. It would include a casino, hotel, resort pool and center for events such as live music.