Nonprofit Aims to Halt Casino Vote in Richmond, Virginia

A nonprofit in Richmond, Va., is taking legal action to prevent a new casino referendum, claiming that the city unlawfully awarded a contract to an out-of-state developer without competitive bidding.

A Richmond judge is considering whether to let a local nonprofit attempt to block a casino vote in Richmond, Va. (Photo by Joe Gratz,

Lodge No. 1 of the Good Lions has filed a motion with a Richmond city court to present its case against the casino referendum. The branch of Lions Club International operates charitable gaming events and argues that a proposed resort-style development in the city’s south side would have negative effects on their operations.

A hearing for the motion is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Second Attempt at Casino Vote

The court recently approved plans for a new casino vote this year as an effort to revive a half-billion dollar development that was narrowly rejected by voters in 2021.

According to State Sen. Chap Petersen, who is representing the nonprofit, the prior certification of the referendum meets the deadline requirement set by state law and doesn’t impede the court from considering the case on its merits.

Petersen emphasized that the goal is not to prolong the litigation but instead to resolve the case before November with ample time.

The nonprofit argues that Richmond city leaders violated competitive bidding laws when they proceeded with the $562 million resort proposal, as there were significant changes in the consortium developing the project compared to the initial proposal. The group highlights the inclusion of Churchill Downs Incorporated and media company Urban One in the current process.

RVA Entertainment Holdings LLC was selected for the 2021 vote through a formal process, but no competing bids were considered this time.

“We may not have liked the process, but at least there was a process,” Petersen said in a brief interview Monday.

Standing Question

The Good Lions must first convince the judge that they have standing to intervene in the case. They argue that the establishment of a casino will negatively impact their charitable gaming business, a conclusion previously supported by the state’s report on casino gaming.

Another local casino opponent, Paul Goldman, has decided not to proceed with his plans to sue, as he believes the Good Lions have a better chance of winning the standing argument.

“He’s making as good a case as anybody can make,” Goldman said of Petersen. “And if the court won’t accept Good Lions as an intervener, they wouldn’t accept me.”

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