Posted on: July 7, 2023, 08:06h.
Last updated on: July 7, 2023, 08:06h.
The odds for the Richmond casino referendum scheduled for the November election have improved due to a stalemate among lawmakers in the Virginia capital regarding the $3.6 billion surplus.
The previous year, outgoing state Sen. Jim Morrissey (D-Richmond, Petersburg) successfully convinced his General Assembly colleagues to implement a budget provision that prevented Richmond from having a second casino ballot referendum. However, Richmond city officials want to revisit the casino proposal by Urban One in the hope of a different outcome.
City officials believe that a more coordinated message highlighting the potential benefits of the casino would sway Richmond voters in favor of the proposal.
Morrissey disagreed with the idea of a second referendum in Richmond, arguing that it goes against the will of the people and the democratic process. He suggested that nearby Petersburg should consider a casino instead, as a state review concluded that it would still benefit the capital region located 25 miles north of Richmond.
Morrissey’s petition gained support from the General Assembly in 2022, resulting in a one-year moratorium on Richmond holding another casino referendum until a review of a possible casino in Petersburg was completed. The review by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) found that both Richmond and Petersburg could feasibly have casinos, but each would be more successful without the other.
Morrissey had hoped to include a provision in this year’s budget to block Richmond from hosting another gaming referendum until lawmakers considered his legislation to qualify Petersburg as a casino host. However, Morrissey was defeated in last month’s Democratic primary race, and his campaign to block a Richmond casino referendum redo has suffered a setback due to disagreements on how to spend the surplus.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is expected to call a special session to resume budget negotiations. As time passes and Richmond prepares for its casino referendum, the chances decrease that lawmakers will include language blocking the city from hosting a second casino ballot question.
The surplus in Virginia has resulted in a gridlock situation, with Republicans aiming to use the excess funds for tax cuts and Democrats seeking to increase teacher salaries and provide more funding for mental health services.
Virginia has consistently had a surplus in recent years due to better-than-expected tax growth, cautious spending, and federal stimulus dollars.