Judge suspends Richmond casino vote order amid legal challenges

In a turn of events, the anticipated casino referendum in Richmond has hit a temporary snag as Richmond Circuit Court Judge William R. Marchant suspended the court order for a new casino vote on the very day it was due to be finalized.

The judge’s decision came as a response to the legal efforts put forth by the nonprofit organization Richmond Lodge No. 1 of the Good Lions, which seeks to intervene and block the city’s plans for a casino resort in the Southside area.The court order, originally approved on July 25, aimed to introduce a citywide referendum about the proposed casino project to the November 7 ballot. However, the Good Lions’ legal challenge prompted Judge Marchant’s decision to suspend the order and provide a window for the involved parties to present their legal arguments.

The Good Lions organization filed motions to intervene in the court order, asserting its stance against the casino resort and its placement on the ballot. In response, Judge Marchant granted the Good Lions’ emergency motion to suspend the court order temporarily.

This suspension allows the parties involved to submit legal arguments concerning the nonprofit’s request to intervene. The parties are granted time until 3 p.m. on Friday to prepare and present their arguments. The original court order was set to be finalized on August 15.

During the proceedings, Judge Marchant directed his attention to the legal foundation of the arguments presented. He highlighted the importance of substantiating the claims regarding the legal standing of the Good Lions to intervene in the matter. The judge’s remarks indicated a desire for a more comprehensive exploration of the legal aspects of the case.

Christopher Robertson, attorney for the Good Lions organization, discussed the timeframe provided by the suspension, stating: “You have three days.” He also acknowledged the forthcoming challenge, adding, “We will check whether the Richmond City Council followed the proper process when selecting the developers.”

While concerns about potential delays were raised during the proceedings, Judge Marchant assured that the suspension’s impact on public notification and ballot preparation would be limited, as long as the motion to intervene proceeded smoothly.

Richmond’s pursuit of a casino project has faced its share of hurdles. The city’s initial attempt in 2021 was narrowly rejected by voters, and a state budget provision further complicated efforts for another casino referendum in 2022.

The City Council’s approval of a $562 million casino resort proposal in Southside in June led to the request for the second referendum on the November 7 ballot.

The proposed casino project, a collaboration between Urban One and Churchill Downs, is anticipated to bring about 1,300 jobs to the region.

The project encompasses plans for a luxury hotel, entertainment venues, a casino, a sportsbook, restaurants, and a sprawling 55-acre park. To fund the endeavor, the city stands to receive an upfront payment of $26.5 million.

The fate of the Richmond casino vote now rests on the legal proceedings and the judge’s ultimate ruling on the Good Lions’ motion to intervene. The situation underscores the intricate legal landscape surrounding casino development and expansion efforts in various regions.

Early voting is scheduled to begin on September 22, running through November 5, offering ample time for citizens to make their voices heard on the casino referendum and other key matters.