Richmond, Virginia Casino Voting Put On Hold As Judge Pauses

Published on: August 15, 2023, 07:13.

Last updated on August 16, 2023, 12:41.

A Richmond, Va. nonprofit will spend the day in court against a local casino referendum.

Richmond casino Urban One Virginia gambling
An artist’s drawing of ONE Casino + Resort in Richmond, Virginia. The Richmond casino project faced a new hurdle Tuesday when a local judge allowed a nonprofit to file a lawsuit against the project’s voting plans. (Image: ONE Casino + Resort)

Richmond Environmental Court Judge William R. Marchant on Tuesday stepped back from his earlier approval of plans for the casino referendum this year. The judge suspended his decision on July 25 to give the nonprofit and the city an opportunity to present legal arguments over the casino issue. local news station WRIC.

Now Good Lions and city attorneys have until Friday to present the legal arguments for the case. According to WRIC, Marchant said he will announce a decision on the Lions’ core arguments by August 23.

Decision Affects Voting Program

Marchant said the decision to listen to the Lions would not interfere with his plans to put the question to a vote in November unless the charity wins on the merits.

Good Lions argued that the Richmond mayor and city council violated state law by proceeding with the casino plan without considering competing bids. The group, a division of Lions Club International, organizes charitable play events at a local bingo hall. He says these operations will suffer as a new casino enters the market, and a government-sponsored analysis of casino gaming potential has come to similar conclusions.

The said No-Bid Contract

The proposed facility will be built by a company known as RVA Entertainment Holdings LLC, which was selected in 2021 following a competitive bidding process. But the companies behind the project have changed since then, namely with the entry of Churchill Downs Incorporated. He was involved with the current applicant Urban One, a Baltimore media company.

Wirt P. Marks, Senior Deputy City Attorney General of Richmond, who represented the city at Wednesday’s hearing, argued that because the casino is built on private land, the city does not need to go through a competitive bidding process, according to WRIC. An attorney for Good Lions disputed this claim, saying that competitive bidding was “naturally part of the process” when voters had to approve the base project.

Marchant signaled that the nonprofit might have better luck in seeking injunctive relief rather than trying to intervene in the case as they are currently doing. Good Lions attorney Christopher Robertson told WRIC they did not consider the request for injunctive relief, but did not reject it.

If Richmond wins in court, voters will have the chance to decide on the referendum in a vote on November 7. A similar question in 2021 failed by a margin of 51-49%.

Casino advocates say the project will create 1,300 jobs and generate new income for the city. Richmond will be given a $26.5 million down payment.

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