As Opposition Mounts, Bally’s Corporation Announces Richmond Casino ‘Listening Tour’

Posted on April 13, 2021

As opposition to a potential Richmond casino becomes more organized and vocal in the Virginia capital, Bally’s Corporation plans to do a little listening.

In fact, executives from the proposed developer and operator of the Bally’s Richmond Casino Resort are making it a formal affair.

Bally’s has scheduled three sessions in a “listening tour” to discuss the proposed $650 million casino-resort. The sessions take place Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

In recent weeks, many Richmond residents have taken a hard stance against a possible casino. Voters in the city of 226,000 will decide the fate of the Richmond casino referendum on Election Day, Nov. 2. If approved, Richmond will join four other cities that approved Virginia casinos during the 2020 election cycle.

Bally’s Corporation listening tour details

Bally’s is one of three finalists that the City of Richmond chose from six hopefuls for the potential casino project. The Cordish Co. and Urban One/Colonial Downs are also still alive. However, the city nixed proposals from the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Wind Creek Hospitality, and Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos on March 24.

This past November, voters in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth approved casinos in their respective cities by healthy 2-1 margins.

Things haven’t gone so smoothly in Richmond, though, as the three finalists hit the homestretch. Opposition is mounting. Residents even took to the streets to protest Bally’s proposed site. The 61-acre plot is located at the intersection of Powhite Parkway (VA-76) and Chippenham Parkway (VA-150) near Forest Hill Avenue.

Bally’s execs hope the listening tour can address the various concerns.

According to Bally’s:

The objective of the tour is to provide Bally’s, and Richmond residents and local business owners spanning all nine districts, with opportunities to engage with Bally’s, and address important issues regarding the casino selection process, to ensure that Richmonders’ interests and values are best served. Jonathan Davis, an African American Community Activist in Richmond, is partnering with Bally’s in the planning and implementation of the listening tour.

The tour includes the following three events, all in Richmond:

  • Tuesday, April 13, 6:30 p.m.: Bryan Park (4308 Hermitage Road);
  • Wednesday, April 14, 1:00 p.m.: Battery Park (2803 Dupont Circle)
  • Wednesday, April 14, 6:30 p.m.: Chimborazo Park (3215 E. Broad St.)

The issue? Location, location, location

Richmond residents oppose the three casino proposals for various reasons.

This week Richmond.com‘s Chris Suarez reported that some opposition to the Bally’s site is due to the presence of nearby graves of free and formerly enslaved Black people.

Other complaints are the usual variety for massive undertakings such as the Bally’s casino:

  • Traffic and congestion
  • Crime
  • Environment impact
  • Gambling addiction and societal impact
  • Lower property values
  • Impact on small businesses

However, as residents debate the three casino-resort proposals and their intended development sites, some of the Richmond casino opposition has used racist tropes to try to sway voters. The proposed Bally Richmond Casino Resort would be located in the 4th District, which is 65% White.

Anonymous flyers and text messages have suggested building the Richmond casino “over there.” In this case, that means the site that Urban One and Colonial Downs Group proposed. It’s located on the former Altria Operations Center site on South Commerce Road. The area is in the 8th District, which is just 17% White.

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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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