Virginia: Judge rules in favor of the City of Richmond to hold second casino referendum

A Richmond Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the City of Richmond’s petition to hold another casino referendum on November 7. This referendum would require Richmond residents to once again cast their votes on a proposed casino development situated on the city’s Southside. The vote will determine whether the project finally gets the green light, following a failed referendum in 2021, when 51% of voters said no to the casino.

The decision followed a heated dispute involving a local non-profit group, Richmond Lodge No. 1 of the Good Lions, which had filed a motion to halt the referendum. The non-profit organization argued the city council’s decision to have the casino referendum back on the ballot, asserting its unconstitutionality and the potential adverse effects of a new casino on their business. The group, which conducts charitable gaming events at Pop’s Bingo World twice a week, claimed that the introduction of a new casino would significantly damage their revenue streams.

Judge William Marchant, presiding over the case, suspended the order on the referendum and provided both the non-profit and the city three days to present their cases. His ruling, in favor of Richmond, defers the decision about the new casino’s location and approval to city voters. 

Mayor Levar Stoney

Mayor Levar Stoney responded to the court ruling in a statement: “I am pleased to see Judge Marchant rule in favor of the City of Richmond. If approved this November, the proposed destination resort and casino will provide 1,300 good-paying jobs and an estimated $30 million in annual revenue to tackle our community’s greatest needs.”

“On top of adding to Richmond’s record development and growth, this project will change the economic trajectory of Southside for years to come,” he added.

If approved by the voters, the proposed casino resort, located near Commerce Road in South Richmond, will feature a luxury hotel, live entertainment, and conference venues, high-end dining options, casino space with slot games, table games, and a sportsbook, as well as 55 acres of park and green space. RVA Entertainment Holdings is expected to reveal the design and vision for the casino resort in the coming weeks.

A rendering of the proposed ONE Casino + Resort in Richmond.

The City of Richmond has been pushing for this casino project since 2021. Judge Merchant reached the conclusion of his ruling based on two major points of analysis, including that the judicial proceeding was not amenable to intervention; and that Good Lions lacks standing to intervene because it has not identified a right involved in the proceeding, and because the challenged government action is not fairly traceable to the alleged harm.

This judicial proceeding in which Good Lions seeks to intervene is merely the last step in an administrative process for the placing of a referendum on the ballot. It is not an adversary proceeding with adverse parties and issues to be litigated,” Marchant said in his ruling, as reported by ABC 8News.

“There are no plaintiffs or defendants, there is no contest of rights, and as such, the Court finds that this limited non-adversarial judicial proceeding is not amenable to intervention by a party seeking assertion or protection of claims or rights. Further, the Court finds that Good Lion has not identified any ‘right’ involved in this limited judicial proceeding,” he concluded.