A month after deciding to pursue a do-over referendum on a proposed casino in the city, Richmond leaders are holding off on additional preparations until a path forward is cleared up in the General Assembly.
The Richmond City Council on Monday deferred a vote on a resolution to support a 2-cent reduction in the city real estate tax rate should a second voter referendum on the One Casino + Resort project pass.
The resolution was deferred to the council’s March 28 meeting, by which time it expects to have a clearer picture on how, and when, it could proceed with a referendum, President Cynthia Newbille said during the meeting.
A week earlier, the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee adopted a state budget amendment that would prevent Richmond from holding another casino referendum until November 2023 – two years after the referendum that city voters narrowly rejected last fall.
The amendment, which was requested by Sen. Joe Morrissey, also directs the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to conduct a study of potential state and local revenues that could be generated from a casino in Petersburg, potentially adding that city as an alternative host site.
Morrissey, whose senate district includes Petersburg and parts of Richmond, had previously floated a bill that would have prevented Richmond from holding a second referendum for five years. That bill did not advance past the same committee.
The amended budget bill passed the Senate last week. It now goes to the House, which referred the bill to its appropriations committee Monday.
In late January, the Richmond council voted 8-1 to revive the city’s arrangement with developer Urban One and pursue a second referendum on its One Casino + Resort, a $565 million project that councilmembers considered too good of a deal to pass up. In calling for re-do, councilmembers have said the project’s economic benefits were not communicated to voters as well as they could have been.
The real estate tax rate resolution specifies that certain revenues from the project would be put toward funding for public schools and infrastructure improvements. The city has said that $560 million in capital investment would go specifically to Richmond Public Schools and city projects, if a second referendum passes.
Urban One also had committed to pay the city $25 million upfront, and the project was projected to create 1,500 permanent jobs and 3,000 construction jobs.
A separate resolution introduced at Monday’s council meeting would appropriate one-third of revenues from the project to a reserve fund for schools, to supplant an anticipated $7.2 million decrease in state funding. The resolution, from Stephanie Lynch of the Fifth District, was referred to committee and will come back to the council for a vote later this month.