The decision of the Richmond Government not to hold another bidding procedure for the only casino development opportunity in the capital city may have legal consequences. Recently, a prominent lawyer and political activist in the state of Virginia revealed that he is preparing legal action to challenge that decision.
Paul Goldman, who in 1990 became the first person of color to serve as Governor of Virginia, believes that the Mayor of Richmond – Levar Stoney – and the City Council both failed to comply with the Virginia Public Procurement Act, which requires state and local Governments to organize and hold competitive bidding processes when seeking partners or vendors for a certain economic development project.
In 2021 Richmond authorities did not hold the required bidding procedure for its casino license. As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, Richmond was one of the five cities (along with Danville, Norfolk, Bristol, and Portsmouth) that qualified to host a casino license under the provisions of state legislation that allows those cities to consider establishing a casino as an additional source of funds. Under the existing legislative framework, casino venues can only be approved after receiving the necessary local support of local voters as part of a ballot referendum on the matter.
Two years ago, the residents of Richmond narrowly rejected the project for the more than $500-million casino and resort called One Casino + Resort by a 51% to 49% vote. Since then Levar Stoney and most of Richmond City Council have since sought to once again ask local voters about their opinions on the project, hoping that a more coherent message promoting the potential economic benefits that the establishment of such a casino resort would have for the region.
Richmond Officials Selected Urban One as Their Preferred Casino Resort Developer in 2021
In 2021, Richmond officials selected the casino resort bid of the media conglomerate Urban One in partnership with casino operator Peninsula Pacific Entertainment over the projects of their competitors, including The Cordish Companies, Bally’s, and the Golden Nugget. According to city officials, the Urban One plan was preferred because it represented the first Black-owned commercial casino in the US.
As CasinoGamesPro reported, the efforts of the Richmond City Council to hold a second referendum on the proposed casino project in 2022 failed, pretty much because the state provision authored by Senator Joe Morrissey was primarily focused on the state’s budget. After Morrissey was defeated during the Democratic primary that took place earlier in 2023, there have been no more efforts seeking to prevent Richmond authorities from turning to its voters and asking them for their opinion on the proposed casino undertaking for a second time.
A couple of months ago, Richmond City Council voted 8 to 1 in favor of the casino referendum advancement as part of the November 2023 ballot. The referendum re-establishes the partnership between the city and Urban One, although the company has changed its development partners.
According to Paul Goldman, the city was required to conduct another competitive bidding process because both the Virginia Procurement Act and the State Constitution aim at preventing such “sweetheart” deals.