Petersburg casino bill overcomes first hurdle in General Assembly

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 11:12 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A bill that would add Petersburg to the list of cities to host a casino in the commonwealth overcame its first hurdle on Thursday in a senate subcommittee.

Dozens packed the gaming subcommittee meeting to express their concerns with SB 780 that, if approved, would also not allow the city of Richmond to hold another referendum for a casino in the River City.

“I know we have the heart, we have the drive, we can make it happen,” one woman who spoke to the committee said. “With faith, hope, and a lot of your charity, I wore the white hat because I came with a pure heart. To sparkle to love, and I hope it was a minute. Petersburg is our town.”

While others had concerns a casino may add to ongoing issues in Petersburg.

“I am a resident of the city of Petersburg, and this is not going to be a good move for us as a citizen,” another woman said.

Some of those speaking in opposition of the bill included members of Richmond City Council.

In 2021, voters said no to bringing a casino to the city’s southside, but it was close.

City leaders bet if they had another opportunity to educate the community on the project, they could get the votes necessary to start building.

“This provides another opportunity to provide absolute clarity on location, on the impact on the city’s investment as well as the return on investment,” Councilmember Cynthia Newbill told the committee.

Those on the subcommittee said Richmond had its shot and believed Petersburg should have a chance.

”I hear both sides, I hear it, but I also know that you had a chance to get up to bat,” Sen. Bryce Reeves said. " I would associate my comments with my good friend Senator Bell on the end there that if Petersburg can’t get it done, maybe you get another whack, but I will tell you right now I think they deserve an opportunity to be heard and be seen.”

In a 7-2 vote, the bill moved forward.

“The subcommittee said, you know what. Richmond, you had your chance. We live in a democracy, we believe, and we respect the voter’s will, and Richmond said no to a casino,” Sen. Joe Morrissey said after the vote. “Let’s give a chance to Petersburg, and that’s pretty much what it boils down to.”

Members of Richmond City Council who argued against the bill said they feel Sen. Morrissey is not representing Richmond and that the game is not over yet.

“This was a referendum. How many times can you vote on a referendum,” Richmond City Councilmember Reva Trammell said. “You can vote on it as many times as you want, and you can change the language this is not, per se, a city council race or a senators race.”

Petersburg has not hit the jackpot just yet. Next week, it will go to the full committee.