Petersburg Casino Dreams Dashed By Legislators
A Virginia Senate committee killed any hope of building a Petersburg casino.
The members of the Finance and Appropriations Committee voted against SB 203 by a 9-7 margin. As a result, any hopes of bringing a casino to the city were dead.
Sen. Joe Morrisey, D-Richmond, submitted the legislation at the start of the legislative session. The bill would add Petersburg to the list of cities eligible to host a casino. Furthermore, any city that rejected a casino referendum would be banned from holding another vote on the issue within the next five years.
In April 2020, then-Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation that would allow voters in five economically depressed cities to decide if Las Vegas-style casinos should come to their cities.
The legislation allowed for referendums in Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Bristol and Richmond. In November 2020, voters in Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Bristol voted to bring gaming to their hometowns.
However, Richmond officials decided to delay the vote a year. Last November, voters rejected the proposal.
Petersburg casino bill was not a partisan issue
Despite Morrisey’s Democrat affiliation, his bill was not popular among his own party.
Of the 11 Democrats on the committee, six of them voted against the bill. There were five Republicans on the panel and three voted against the legislation.
Here is a look at the breakdown of the vote:
- Sen. Janet Howell – D
- Sen. Emmett Hanger – R
- Sen. Louise Lucas – D
- Sen. Stephen Newman – R
- Sen. Jill Vogel – R
- Sen. George Barker – D
- Sen. John Edwards – D
- Sen. Creigh Deeds – D
- Sen. Mamie Locke – D
- Sen. Richard Saslaw – D
- Sen. Thomas Norment – R
- Sen. Frank Ruff – R
- Sen. Chapman Petersen – D
- Sen. David Marsden – D
- Sen. Adam Ebbin – D
- Sen. Jennifer McClellan – D
Richmond likely to hold a second referendum
With Morrisey’s bill getting rejected, Richmond voters will likely get a second crack at the casino initiative.
Last month, the Richmond City Council voted by an 8-1 margin to put the issue back on the ballot this November. However, this time around, Mayor Levar Stoney is hoping to incentivize a different outcome.
Stoney proposed a 2% cut to the city’s property tax if the casino referendum is passed.
When the initiative was shot down last November, the margin was slim. It was a difference of about 1,500 votes that ultimately nixed the $560 million One Casino + Resort.
But when you dig deeper into the voter breakdown, the “no” votes came from affluent areas of the city. Those areas had much higher home values than the areas that voted in favor of the casino.
Stoney hopes that a 2% discount on their tax bill will help sway the vote in the other direction.
Morrisey and other outspoken critics of the decision of the council argue that a redo would be undemocratic. Morrisey told media outlets that he plans on speaking with members of his party to try and revive the legislation.
Last year, the council gave the city’s gaming license to the African American-focused media company Urban One.
The Richmond casino would be the organization’s first gaming venture. As a result, it partnered with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment to develop the property.
PPE already has a presence in Virginia. The group owns the Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in the state, as well as the Colonial Downs racetrack.
Catherine Hughes and Alfred Liggins own 90% of the Maryland-based business. Therefore, One Casino + Resort would become the first black-owned casino in America if the referendum is pas.