Virginia Voters Reject Expanded Gambling Proposals

November 8, 2023
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Voters in the cities of Richmond and Manassas Park have rejected two local referendums to expand Virginia’s gaming market through a new casino-resort and major historic horseracing facility.
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Voters in the cities of Richmond and Manassas Park have rejected two local referendums to expand Virginia’s gaming market through a new casino-resort and major historic horseracing facility.

Backers of a referendum to establish a casino in the state capital of Richmond conceded defeat on Tuesday evening (November 7), after unofficial results showed local voters overwhelmingly rejecting the proposed Richmond Grand Casino & Resort in the south of the city.

With 72 of 73 city precincts reporting, a ballot measure seeking approval for the casino trailed by margin of 60.2 percent against to 39.8 percent in favor.

“We are grateful to the thousands of Richmonders who voted for good jobs and a stronger city,” Richmond Grand, a partnership of Urban One and Churchill Downs Incorporated, said in a brief statement.

In a separate city-wide referendum, voters in Manassas Park in Northern Virginia were also projected to have rejected a ballot proposal to allow a gaming parlor featuring several hundred historic horseracing (HHR) terminals.

Churchill Downs, which operates seven existing Rosie’s branded HHR facilities in Virginia, as well as the state’s Colonial Downs racetrack, announced plans earlier this year to open a new location in Manassas Park, pending approval of parimutuel wagering by city voters.

With three of four city precincts reporting, the HHR referendum trailed by a margin of 59-41 percent.

Tuesday’s defeat was the second in as many years for casino developers in Richmond, following an initial 2021 referendum that was rejected by a margin of less than two percent.

The state capital is one of five cities authorized to host a casino under a 2020 state law, but local voter approval is a pre-requisite for developers to be able to apply for a license from the Virginia Lottery Board.

The pro-casino campaign suffered allegations of antisemitism in recent days following a remark made by one investor about a Jewish lawyer opposed to the Richmond casino.

It remains to be seen whether Urban One will now mount a third effort to persuade Richmond voters to support a casino, or whether focus may instead shift next year to amending the 2020 law to also permit gaming at an alternative location in nearby Petersburg.

Baltimore-based Cordish Companies has announced plans to build a billion-dollar Petersburg casino-resort, but was unable to convince state lawmakers to pass a bill to accommodate it during this year’s legislative session.

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