Richmond, Virginia Nonprofit Wants to Block Casino Voting

Published on: August 14, 2023 at 06:09h.

Last updated on: 15 August 2023, 09:31.

A Richmond, Va. nonprofit will go to court, arguing that the city has illegally awarded an out-of-state developer a bid-free contract in an attempt to block a new casino referendum.

Richmond courts
A Richmond judge is considering whether to allow a local nonprofit to attempt to block a casino vote in Richmond, Virginia (Image: Joe Gratz)

Box 1 of the Good Lions submitted a motion to the Richmond city court late Friday, demanding the opportunity to file a lawsuit against the referendum. A branch of Lions Club International, the group organizes bi-weekly charity game events at a local bingo hall. It is stated that plans for a resort-style development on the south side of the city will undermine these operations.

A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Second Attempt in Casino Voting

The court last month gave the green light to plans to hold a new casino vote this year. The vote is an attempt by city leaders to reinvigorate the planned $500 million development that voters narrowly rejected in 2021.

State law requires municipal voting measures, such as the casino vote, to be approved by a judge at least 81 days before Election Day, which falls on Friday, August 18. State argues this should not prevent the Lions from spending their days in court. Senator Chap Petersen is a Northern Virginia attorney who took on the nonprofit’s case.

In a letter to Richmond Judge William Marchant on August 14, Petersen wrote that the July 25 pre-approval of the referendum met the deadline requirement “regardless of whether the decision was subsequently suspended for any reason.” “The Court is therefore free to consider our substantive motions without jeopardizing the timing of the referendum.”

Petersen said He added that the Lions’ aim was not to stalemate the case in court and that there was ample time to resolve the case before November.

The group argues that Richmond city leaders violated the state’s competitive bidding laws by citing the $562 million resort offer. This is despite significant changes in the consortium RVA Entertainment Holdings LLC, which developed the project, compared to when the project was first pitched more than two years ago. The biggest difference was that Churchill Downs Incorporated was involved, along with Urban One, the media company behind the original proposal.

The RVA was selected after a formal process before the 2021 vote. This time, however, competing offers did not have a similar weight.

“We may not have liked the process, but at least there was a process,” Petersen said in a short interview on Monday.

Standing Question

The first hurdle for the Good Lions is convincing the judge that they have the authority to intervene in the case, and to do so, the group cites the state’s previous conclusion that casino-style gambling will harm charitable gaming.

Their business will be adversely affected by the establishment of a casino; This is a fact acknowledged in the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s (“JLARC”) report on casino games, specifically on the site requested by RVA Entertainment.” The group defended its request to intervene.

Now that the nonprofit is involved in the fray, another local casino competitor says: takes a step back.

Paul Goldman, a Richmond-based political strategist, announced plans to sue earlier this year. But he says the Good Lions seem to have a better shot at winning the standing debate.

“He makes a case as good as anyone can,” Goldman said of Petersen. “And if the court doesn’t accept Good Lions as a participant, it won’t accept me either.”

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