RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The last surviving bill this year allowing Petersburg to ask its voters whether they want a casino has died, derailing the city’s hopes of hosting a $1.4 billion project and possibly giving Richmond a second chance.
The Democrat-led Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee rejected a bill from Del. Kim Taylor (R-Dinwiddie) Thursday that would let Petersburg put a question on ballots this November to give voters the final say on bringing a casino to the city.
The 10-6 vote to kill the bill comes exactly two weeks after an identical bill from state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) failed to advance out the same committee. The move to defeat the measure was pushed by state Sen. Louise Lucas, who told the panel she hoped the legislature would be “more methodical” before giving other cities a shot at a casino.
Petersburg’s effort could be revived during state budget negotiations, but that path faces an uphill battle. Representatives from the city of Petersburg declined to comment after the vote.
Richmond City Council President Dr. Michael Jones told 8News the city is “pleased” with the outcome, saying he feels it remains the best option for a new casino. Jones added that he didn’t like that the two cities were pitted against each other during the process, telling 8News that “struggle is struggle.”
Virginia lawmakers passed legislation to allow five cities to become eligible for a casino. With four already approved, two cities are still angling for the last spot: Petersburg and Richmond.
Taylor’s legislation would have allowed Petersburg voters to decide the fate of a proposed $1.4 billion casino project from The Cordish Companies that the city already signed off on.
With Thursday’s vote, Richmond is poised to push for another ballot referendum on a potential casino project. Richmond’s first effort to bring a casino to the city’s Southside failed in 2021 by just under 1,500 votes.
A Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study found having casinos in both cities could work, leading some lawmakers to discuss legislative changes to make six cities eligible for a casino referendum.
The proposed project from Cordish, which has a price tag more than double the price of Richmond’s effort with Urban One, would be built in multiple phases if approved by Petersburg voters.
Cordish’s proposed plan calls for the construction of a 4 million-square-foot casino resort on Petersburg’s south side next to the Interstate 95 interchange at Wagner Road. It would include a casino, hotel, resort pool and center for events such as live music.
Urban One and Churchill Downs Inc., partners in Richmond’s proposed casino project, reiterated what Jones said, releasing a joint statement calling the city the best path forward.
“We appreciate the General Assembly’s careful, deliberate process and open mind in considering and addressing this important decision,” the statement reads. “For us, the process has always been about determining what is best for the Commonwealth and that answer has always been quite clear.”
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