Richmond councilwoman bets again on casino referendum, state senator hopes to block the chance

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Although Richmond voters who turned out in the 2021 election narrowly denied the Urban ONE casino project, a new effort to try again has sprung out of city hall.

Richmond City Councilwoman Reva Trammell, who represents the southside voting district where the media company proposed a $565 million casino and resort, is circulating a petition in order to hold another casino referendum next year.

Although Trammell’s petition explicitly states “we request that the Richmond City Council consider bringing ONE Casino back for a referendum in 2022,” it is unclear if the company has an interest in a second chance at the polls.

“This is the place where it should have been, where it needs to come back,” Trammell told 8News Friday at the previously proposed casino spot off the Bells Road exit of Interstate 95.

51.4 percent of voters said ‘no’ to the casino referendum, which was on the back of the ballot in November.

Our sister station WRIC previously reported that Petersburg officials began discussions to bring a casino there; an effort backed by Democratic State Senator Joe Morrissey.

While Morrissey backed the Urban ONE plan, he is hoping to effectively block the capital city from voting again on a casino in the near future.

“We have to respect the democratic vote,” he said.

Morrissey said he has drafted a bill that would prevent Richmond from holding another gaming referendum for five years.

“By analogy, let’s say somebody lost an election by [a] narrow margin. OK, what? Have an election next year, and if they don’t win, next year after that? And then, eventually, you could win, and that’s just inconsistent with the democratic process.” Morrissey said after WRIC shared a copy of Trammell’s petition.

“Senator Joe Morrissey, don’t do this to us,” Trammell responded to the senator’s efforts.

While no deals in Petersburg have reportedly been met with any casino operator, a license would have to be authorized.

But back in Richmond, it’s not only Trammell who is asking city voters about the subject. 

Some residents recently received a text message with a link to a survey mentioning the referendum, and how they voted up and down the ballot. That online survey no longer exists.

The source of the survey is unclear, though the text message states it is from ‘State Election Research.’ 8News called, and texted the phone number associated with the message.

There was no response to the text, and the call was immediately sent to an automated message stating “your call could not be completed as dialed.”

As the law currently allows, Richmond is able to decide on a preferred casino operator before a referendum. There’s no stated indication if Urban ONE would try again, but Mayor Levar Stoney’s office said Friday, because the city lost out on revenue and jobs, “he understands why Councilwoman Trammell and others may be interested in a reconsideration.”

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