Virginia Court Gives Richmond Casino Vote Another Green Light

Written By Derek Helling on August 24, 2023
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Opponents of a plan to build a physical commercial casino in Richmond, Virginia, might now have to shift their strategy toward the ballot box. What could be a last-gasp effort to block a referendum on the issue in the city has come up short.

A state court has denied the request of a charity in Richmond to intervene in the situation. While that’s no guarantee that other challenges won’t arise between now and election day, it does raise the bar for such attempts.

Virginia state court rejects arguments against Richmond casino vote

A Wednesday order from Circuit Court Judge William Merchant represents a favorable result for people who want to see casino gaming in Virginia’s capital. In his order, Merchant reasoned that the party that filed the petition, the Richmond Lodge No. 1 of the Good Lions, lacked standing to bring the complaint before the court.

Merchant also stated that even if the lodge had substantiated its standing in its filing, the process they sought intervention in was merely a formality of actually placing an approved measure on a ballot. Furthermore, non-profit organizations like the lodge are not parties to that process.

In its petition, the lodge had argued that a casino in Richmond would handicap its fundraising method of charitable bingo. It also tried to establish that Richmond violated the Virginia constitution by foregoing an open bidding process for an agreement to operate the casino, should voters approve.

While that petition was a legal long shot from the start for a variety of reasons, the prompt ruling from the court suggests that any future challenges to the referendum even happening face daunting odds. For any groups or individuals who want to ensure that a casino does not come to fruition in the city, trying to sway the vote may be more feasible.

Casino debate could shift to how to vote

Merchant’s ruling should come as no surprise. Disregarding the procedural elements, it’s difficult for any party to substantiate how it would be harmed by a casino in Richmond when at this time, there is no casino in Richmond. The fact is that the city’s voters have already rejected a casino once.

Other groups with a similar negative sentiment toward the prospect of a casino would be wise to observe the court’s decision. To make an adequate case that the court should block the vote from happening, that party will have to not only prove it has a right to intervene in the process but also that the vote taking place would somehow damage it irrevocably.

That’s a tall order legally speaking. A more feasible plan seems to be conceding that the vote will occur and advocating for the desired outcome in the election.

Although the 2021 vote was close, nothing is stopping Richmond residents from rejecting the casino again in November. At the same time, casino opponents might fear that they will be heavily outspent in the forthcoming campaign to push voters one way or the other.

While it’s unclear exactly how much weight the Richmond Lodge No. 1 of the Good Lions has to convince people in the city to vote no a second time, that looks like the most realistic path forward.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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