Richmond Lodge No. 1 of the Good Lions, Inc., a nonprofit organization that runs charitable gaming events twice a week at a Richmond bingo hall, is trying to block a second casino referendum in Richmond. On August 11, the nonprofit filed motions, asking the judge to reverse the court’s decision, which allows the city’s top election administrator to put a second casino vote on the November ballot. Good Lions argues that the city violated the Virginia Constitution by allowing an out-of-state developer to build a casino resort without a competitive bidding process. This Tuesday, a hearing on the motion is expected to take place.
In July, a Richmond Circuit Court judge signed a court order for a second casino referendum after the city council voted in favor of allowing Richmond residents to express their opinions on the matter. In November 2021, Richmond residents voted 51-49% against the construction of a casino in Richmond’s South Side.
State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), whose law firm is dealing with Good Lions’ case, told reporters from 8News that the judge has to decide whether the nonprofit has legal standing to join the petition before considering its filing. On August 14, Peterson wrote a letter to Richmond Judge William Marchant, explaining that Good Lions’ case does not affect the referendum’s timing because there is more than enough time before November.
Why the Nonprofit Oppose the Casino Resort Proposal?
Although many casino proponents believe that the proposed casino resort would boost the city’s economy and create more job opportunities, others strongly oppose the casino project, raising concerns about the harmful consequences of such a development. According to Good Lions, the casino resort would hurt charitable gaming and eat away at the organization’s profits. At the moment, charitable gaming is the only form of legal gambling in Richmond. The nonprofit organization claims that the charitable income benefits the community and could be seriously affected or even disappear if the casino referendum moves forward.
A week before the Richmond Circuit Court judge signed the court order, the Virginia Lottery approved a preliminary application from the City and RVA Entertainment Holdings, a joint venture of Urban One Inc. and Churchill Downs, for the establishment of a casino resort in South Richmond. The nonprofit organization claims that the city council violated state competitive bidding laws by approving the $562 million casino resort proposal even though the project underwent significant changes since 2021, when it was initially approved.
The court filing claims that the 2023 bid is different than the one from 2021, meaning it requires a new public bidding process. Good Lions also noted that the developer’s ownership structure has also significantly changed since 2021. In a brief phone call on Monday, Peterson told journalists from 8News that the city “recycled” the 2021 decision without taking into account the new ownership structure of the consortium selected to develop the casino resort and the project changes.