Richmond Votes Down Casino Proposal with Greater Opposition Than Previous Attempt

On November 7, 2023, the voters in Richmond, Va. made a decision to reject a casino referendum by a wider margin compared to two years ago, despite a massive campaign by casino developers and support from city leaders.

With a 58% opposition and only 42% in favor, the unofficial results released by the state Board of Elections did not include nearly 18,000 early voting ballots. Even though the margin was large enough for casino voters to concede defeat, the pro-casino group “Richmond Wins Vote Yes” voiced their pride in running a community-centered campaign to create more opportunities for residents of the city to rise into the middle class.

Local activist Paul Goldman, who organized the anti-casino campaign, declared the victory as a “David versus Goliath” battle, affirming that it was a triumph for the people of Richmond. Casino developers also seemed to acknowledge the failure, conceding defeat while expressing gratitude to the thousands of Richmonders who supported the project.

Mayor Levar Stoney expressed disappointment in the loss of the $562 million project as he had hoped for economic development to the city’s south side. He vowed to continue being a voice for historically overlooked and underserved communities, advocating for accessible and affordable child care, good-paying jobs, and abundant opportunities for ALL Richmonders.

The result of the referendum marks the second time Richmond voters have rejected plans to build a casino in the city. The project, which would have been developed by a partnership between Maryland-based media company Urban One and Churchill Downs, faced opposition from the heavily Black south side, where the casino would be located, and showed stronger support compared to the city’s whiter northern precincts.

Richmond was one of five Virginia cities targeted for casino development as part of a state legislative package adopted in 2020. The rejection of the casino in Richmond makes it the only locality to reject such a development, while the other cities, namely Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Danville, passed their own casino referendums years ago.