Election Day will ultimately determine the fate for ONE Casino + Resort, but Richmond casino proponents are amassing ahead of the vote.
On Nov. 2, we should know if voters pass the casino referendum in the Virginia capital city of Richmond.
Four other cities overwhelmingly voted in favor of Virginia casinos in 2020. Now, Richmond could join the mix and formally approve the $560 million One Casino + Resort.
Some Richmond casino opposition has been vocal throughout 2021, so this year’s vote could be a lot tighter than those other races.
However, there’s no doubting there’s an abundance of some high-profile Richmond casino proponents.
Richmond casino proponents include Virginia governors
If voters approve of ONE Casino + Resort with a simple majority, officials can start construction on the project. The casino, which would use no tax dollars, would likely open sometime in 2024.
Urban One, a Maryland-based media conglomerate with multiple radio stations in Richmond, submitted the winning proposal for the project and beat out five others. Urban One teamed with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the parent company of Virginia’s Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums and the Colonial Downs racetrack, for the project.
Projects officials have long touted the economic impact the Richmond casino could have, especially on the Southside region of the city. That’s one reason current Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has endorsed it.
As Northam stated:
“I’m voting yes for One Casino + Resort because this project will provide economic opportunity and 4,500 jobs for some of our most underserved communities as well as bringing the city and state much needed revenue for schools, roads, and more.”
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who’s currently in a heated campaign to reclaim the governor’s office, has also endorsed the referendum.
McAuliffe’s opponent, GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, also reportedly supports the Richmond casino.
But those governors and governor-hopeful aren’t alone.
Public officials endorse ONE Casino + Resort
ONE Casino + Resort is expected to generate $500 million in new tax revenue and community benefits for Richmond over the first decade. It’s also expected to create 3,000 temporary constructions jobs, as well as 1,500 full-time jobs with an average annual salary and benefits of $55,000.
Additionally, since it’s expected to attract 3.7 million visitors annually, many prominent folks have endorsed the project because of its potential economic benefits.
The list of public officials who are Richmond casino proponents includes:
- Virginia State Senator Joe Morrissey
- Virginia State Senator Lamont Bagby
- Former Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton
- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney
- Virginia Delegate Jeff Bourne
- Richmond School Board Chair Cheryl Burke
- Richmond City Council members Andreas Addison (1st District), Ann-Frances Lambert (3rd District), Kristen Larson (4th District), Stephanie Lynch (5th District), Ellen Robertson (6th District), Cynthia Newbille (7th District), Reva Trammell (8th District), and Mike Jones (9th District)
- Former Richmond City Council President Kathy Graziano
Potential tourism prompts support from hospitality industry
Once open, One Casino + Resort will attract 3.7 million visitors annually, according to officials. And 78% of the revenue that the casino generates will come from outside of the city. That’s a key selling point for many local groups.
That’s why the following businesses, civil rights entities, tourism groups, media outlets, and community leaders have pledged support for the project:
- Metropolitan Business League
- Richmond Region Tourism
- Virginia State Conference NAACP
- Richmond Virginia Branch NAACP
- McGuire Civic Association
- Oak Grove Civic Association
- Richmond Crusade for Voters
- Richmond Highway Neighborhood Civic Association
- Broad Rock Merchants Association
- Richmond Flying Squirrels CEO Todd “Parney” Parnell
- Richmond Free Press
- NBC12 Vice President & General Manager Kym Grinnage
- Better Housing Coalition President & CEO Greta J. Harris
As Urban One CEO Alfred C. Liggins III stated:
“Urban One is proud of our 40-year history in serving the communities in which we work and developing unique partnerships that create enormous business opportunities. We have 20 years of experience operating radio properties in the Richmond market. We’re incredibly humbled and grateful for the broad and widespread support being shown for ONE in this city. We promise we will make you proud if voters say yes between now and Nov. 2.”
Richmond casino opposition
Support for the casino in Richmond, a city of approximately 250,000, isn’t unanimous. There hasn’t been formal polling on the issue, but the Richmond casino referendum has polarized much of the city for much of the past year.
Not all of the opposition has been in good faith or even respectful. Some of it got downright ugly and vitriolic.
However, some concerned citizens have very valid concerns about building a casino in the Virginia capital. They range from the potential of congested traffic to gambling addiction to skepticism over the estimated economic impact to the choice of operator (the Richmond project had many suitors).
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine recently voted against the project. Kaine, who’s also a former Virginia governor and chair of the Democratic National Committee, is a Richmond resident and voter. According to his office, the senator thinks there are “better ways to enhance economic development in Richmond.”
That’s been a frequent stance from many Richmond casino opponents: That there are better ways to improve the Richmond economy.
Much of the opposition has rallied under the Richmond for All initiative. As the group’s political director, Quinton Robbins, stated:
“The results are clear. There is no broad-based neighborhood support for this casino. Casinos are an extractive industry that will rob our community just to make a few folks wealthy. After canvassing for the past couple of weeks, it is clear to me that my neighbors are worried about how this casino will hurt the place that we call home.”
Will the opponents ultimately outnumber the proponents? Or will One Casino + Resort get the green light? We should know for sure when the votes are tallied in a week.