Virginia Governor Curb Richmond’s Casino Ambitions Through New Legislation

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In a stunning turn of events, Virginia’s capital, Richmond, is facing legal hurdles regarding its ambitions to become a haven for commercial casino operations. Despite the Mayor, Levar Stoney, and the Richmond City Council ardently pushing for a casino hub, citizens have twice voted against the proposal. Consequently, the city is now legally barred from presenting another casino-related ballot question.

This week, Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican representative, signed two notable measures, dramatically curbing Richmond’s ability to consider casino development. Firstly, House Bill 525, brought forth by Paul Krizek, a Democratic representative from Alexandria, prevents eligible casino hosting cities from conducting follow-up referendums concerning the development of a gaming resort within three years of a failed referendum.

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However, no bill causes more concern for Richmond than House Bill 1131, introduced by Betsy Carr, a Democratic delegate from Richmond. This legislation effectively disqualifies Richmond as an eligible location for a future casino.

As a background, Richmond, alongside Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Danville, was encompassed in the 2020 legislation, enabling local governments to consider casino development as a catalyst for economic growth.

Yet, Richmond’s casino proposition dubbed ONE Casino + Resort faced rejection from a little over half of its 2021 voters. Disappointed yet determined, city officials speculated a more strategic campaign that highlighted economic advantages might be more fruitful. Proceeding to the drawing board, they redrafted a new proposal, ‘Richmond Grand Resort & Casino in November 2023’.

Sadly, the fall season brought more rejection, with 58% of residents voting against the proposition. Of the five cities designated for a potential casino, Richmond was the only city that failed to gain approval.

Analysts suggest a crucial factor for Richmond’s repeated defeat was its choice of Urban One, a multimedia conglomerate with an emphasis on the Black community, as a preferred development partner. Despite Urban One’s public-traded status, its inexperience in establishing or managing a casino or hotel was glaring.

Even more notable were the controversial remarks fromits founder, Cathy Hughes, who starkly criticized the opposition to the casino, contributing to the negative public opinion.

Betsy Carr’s bill, preventing Richmond from reconsidering another referendum in November 2026, gained unanimous approval from the General Assembly, namely the 40-seat Senate and 100-member House. The bill supersedes the state’s 2020 gaming bill that inclusively applied to Richmond.

The critical gaming measures implemented by Gov. Youngkin were part of more than 100 bills he signed into law this week, with just four vetoes from the proposed 104 bills involving climate change, environmental literacy, court records, and plant sales legislation. However, it remains uncertain whether Gov. Youngkin will act on the legislation to declare Petersburg a potential host for casino development.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.