The city government of Richmond is in a rush to secure a court order from the Richmond Circuit Court to authorize a second casino referendum before it is blocked by the General Assembly using a language inserted in the budget.
The suit was filed on March 10th by Interim City Attorney Haskell C. Brown III after the state’s casino regulatory body, the Virginia Lottery Board, raised no objections following a 45-day review. It is expected that the case will be assigned to Chief Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Merchant although no hearing date has been set so far.
Holding a Second Vote
It can be recalled that last November, Richmond voters rejected a proposal to build a casino in South Side via a 1,500 vote margin. However, the City Council, with the backing of Mayor Levar M. Stoney, authorized a second attempt at securing the proposed $565 million casino project for Richmond.
The House and Senate both rejected bills that prevented Richmond from holding a second casino referendum before Petersburg is even given the opportunity to vote on whether to open a casino. However, a provision was inserted in the Senate version of the budget bill that would bar Richmond from holding a second vote until 2023.
The language requires the city of Richmond to wait while the Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission completes a study that would determine the viability of Petersburg as a casino site and whether Central Virginia could support two casinos.
No New Two-Year Budget Passed
Despite that possible issue, City officials believe that if they could get a court order before the budget is approved and becomes effective, then any language to suspend a vote in November becomes irrelevant.
The General Assembly adjourned last Saturday without passing a new two-year budget although there are talks behind the scenes that Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin is going to call a special session to get the budget talks back on track.
The budget must be in place before the July 1st deadline or else the state faces the possibility of a government shutdown. But even if the Assembly passes the budget anytime soon with the language in place, it will not take effect until July 1st.