Petersburg, Virginia wants casino referendum on ballot in 2025

Richmond couldn’t make it

The city of Petersburg, Virginia, hopes the state capital of Richmond’s loss is its gain. Accordingly ABC 8 NewsPetersburg officials have petitioned the state General Assembly to hold a casino referendum in 2025.

In 2020, state lawmakers passed a law allowing the establishment of five brick-and-mortar casinos in certain cities: Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond. Bristol (Hard Rock), Danville (Caesars) and Portsmouth (Rivers) have already opened their casinos and the Pamunkey Tribe will eventually open one in Norfolk.

That leaves Richmond. Two years ago, city residents voted against a casino by a narrow margin of 51% to 49%. After much political and legal wrangling, Richmond was allowed to hold another referendum earlier this month, but this time the results were not nearly as close. Voters again decided against a casino 58% to 41%, with those closer to the proposed location overwhelmingly voting in favor.

And that will be it for Richmond. The city doesn’t adhere to the “third time’s a charm” mantra. So Petersburg, which lies south of the state capital, comes out on top (or jumps to the table, if we want to go more poker-themed).

Petersburg has a lot to do

Petersburg leaders view a casino as an important economic asset for the city, whose poverty rate is more than twice the national average.

ABC 8 News said a 2022 study by the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission calculated that a casino would generate about $12 million in revenue for Petersburg (presumably on an annual basis). Not to mention the temporary jobs in construction and the permanent jobs in the casino.

However, there has been bad blood between Petersburg and the state legislature over this, and Petersburg resident Barbara Rudolph brought it up during a recent city council meeting.

“I think it will be interesting to see how much you all can do to mend the fence, because whatever you try to do still depends on the General Assembly,” she said. “To hold a referendum, you still have to be designated as a host city.”

She may be referring to the Senate Finance and Budget Committee’s rejection of a bill that would have allowed Petersburg residents to decide for themselves whether they wanted a casino. This committee was chaired by Senator Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, who is also interim Senate President.

Sen. Joe Morrissey of Richmond, a supporter of a casino in Petersburg, said the committee had allowed “parochial interests to get in the way of what was best for Petersburg and the citizens there.”

In an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, he continued, accusing Lucas of protecting Portsmouth’s casino interests and saying she “did everything she could to hinder a casino in Petersburg.”

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