RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — State Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) believes Virginia lawmakers will again block Richmond from holding another casino vote and Petersburg will prevail “at the end of the game.”
Sen. Morrissey told 8News Friday he expects language will be added to the state budget, similar to last year, that prevents Richmond from holding another referendum on a casino project. He predicted the ban could be up to five years.
“This is a long game, just like last year,” Morrissey said in an interview. “Richmond is not going to get a do-over. We’re going to win.”
Morrissey led the charge on bringing a casino to Petersburg, proposing bills two years in a row to include the city among those eligible to host casino gambling and touting the $1.4 billion proposed project from The Cordish Companies already approved by city leaders.
But Morrissey’s legislative efforts have failed in the Virginia General Assembly, with this year’s last surviving bill to allow Petersburg to hold a vote on the $1.4 billion casino project getting killed Thursday by the powerful state Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.
Morrissey told 8News he wasn’t surprised by the vote, accusing lawmakers of playing “politics” to derail Petersburg’s shot at a casino resort.
Virginia lawmakers passed legislation to allow five cities to become eligible for a casino. With four already approved, two cities are still angling for the last spot: Petersburg and Richmond.
Richmond appears poised to have another chance at a casino vote after the panel’s vote Thursday. The city’s first effort to bring a casino to the Southside failed in 2021 by just under 1,500 votes.
Richmond City Council President Michael Jones confirmed to 8News on Friday that he plans to seek another referendum this November if lawmakers don’t add budget language keeping the city from getting a court order to put one on the ballot.
“We have to sit back and wait and see what the General Assembly does with the budget,” Jones said, admitting he hopes lawmakers don’t ban Richmond from another vote but that he’s unsure how things will play out until a spending plan is released.
City officials, including Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, threatened legal action over the state budget restricting another casino vote.
But no lawsuit was filed and a Richmond Circuit Court judge granted a request to have the casino referendum removed from last November’s ballot.
A Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study found having casinos in both cities could work, leading some lawmakers to discuss legislative changes to make six cities eligible for a casino referendum.
The 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 under the proposal approved by Petersburg leaders.
Cordish’s proposed plan calls for the construction of a four 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.