Richmond, Virginia casino supporters admit defeat in second referendum

The developers of a proposed resort casino in Richmond, Virginia conceded defeat on Tuesday night after failing to win voters’ approval for the project for the second time. The Richmond Wins, Vote Yes referendum committee released a statement expressing pride in their community-centered campaign and gratitude to the thousands of Richmonders who supported the project.

Despite the concession, the Associated Press has not yet called the ballot measure. The developers had returned with a retooled proposal and invested around $10 million into a pro-casino campaign. The project, branded as the Richmond Grand Resort and Casino, was backed by Mayor Levar Stoney and major area business groups. It would have been located on a former tobacco company site in south Richmond and was a joint venture between Urban One and Churchill Downs.

The proposed casino included gambling options, a 250-room hotel, an outdoor park, dining options, and a concert venue. Boosters estimated the casino would create 1,300 permanent jobs and provide significant financial benefits to the city. However, opponents raised concerns about the negative impact of casinos on the working class and problem gambling.

In the final days of the campaign, developers had to apologize to a leading project opponent, Paul Goldman, after a radio host on an Urban One station made antisemitic remarks about him. In 2020, Virginia politicians approved legislation allowing five casinos to be built around the state if they first secured voter approval. Three casinos have already opened in Bristol, Portsmouth, and Danville, with a fourth project slowly moving forward in Norfolk.

The proposed casino in Richmond faced organized opposition, with many anti-casino signs emphasizing that the city had already rejected a similar project in 2021. The campaign saw a strong effort from those opposed to the casino, who raised concerns about wealth extraction from the working class and the worsening of problem gambling.

Despite the significant investment in the campaign and the support from city officials and business groups, the proposed casino in Richmond ultimately failed to win over voters for the second time.