Richmond judge re-affirms 2023 casino referendum
A judge said Good Lions failed to prove its claim that the decision directly harmed its revenue.
A Richmond casino referendum will go forward as planned this November. In a decision handed down Wednesday, Circuit Court Judge Reilly Marchant said a Richmond bingo hall lacked standing to prevent the referendum from appearing on the ballot.
Attorneys for the Richmond Lodge No. 1 of the Good Lions Inc. — a nonprofit that runs gaming events at a bingo hall in Southside — argued the city failed to follow its procurement process in selecting an operator for the casino.
Good Lions argued the selection of a proposed joint venture between Urban One (the operator behind the failed 2021 ballot question) and Churchill Downs violated the city’s procurement law.
But Marchant said Good Lions failed to prove its claim that the decision directly harmed the bingo hall’s revenue.
“Clearly the particularized harm of the potential future loss of gaming process is in no way ‘fairly traceable’ to that ‘challenged action’ of the city,” Marchant wrote. “There is no connection alleged in any credible way.”
In a statement, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney applauded the verdict and said the casino would “change the economic trajectory of Southside for years to come.”
State Sen. Chap Petersen (D–Richmond), who also represented Good Lions in court, called Marchant’s decision “unfortunate.”
“If my client can’t challenge this action, then presumably nobody can - which means that the Constitution will be ignored,” Petersen said in an email.
Marchant’s decision means Richmond voters will vote again on whether to allow a casino into the city. A similar ballot initiative — offering a joint venture between Urban One and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment — was narrowly defeated in 2021.
Churchill Downs acquired PPE last year.
In June, all but one member of the Richmond City Council voted to add the casino referendum, with the updated partnership, to the ballot.
The group has already begun running tens of thousands of dollars worth of TV ads in support of the casino, according to federal filings.