After the Richmond casino vote failed Tuesday, some parties expressed disappointment. In other parts of the commonwealth, however, people backing casino projects elsewhere likely were all smiles at the news.
As an economist at a Virginia university points out, no casino in Richmond means the same in other VA cities could see more traffic.
There’s no guarantee, however, and the possibility of a casino near Richmond isn’t completely dead yet.
Richmond casino vote prompts mixed reactions
Several high-profile proponents of the One Casino + Resort project expressed their dismay at the narrow defeat of the public referendum on Wednesday. For example, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney called it a “$565 million opportunity lost.”
Thus far, Richmond voters have been outliers in Old Dominion in terms of voting down a proposed casino. Voters in four other VA cities approved the same by margins as high as 71.1%. Now, those same communities might stand to gain from Richmond’s decision.
Old Dominion University professor of economics Robert McNab spoke about how a lack of casino gaming in the state capital could open up things for future casinos in two of the sites: Norfolk and Portsmouth.
“The proposed casino in Richmond would have essentially blocked traffic from Richmond and northern Virginia from coming down to the casinos in Norfolk and Portsmouth,” McNab told WAVY.com. “Now, Hampton Roads working together can market for visitors to come to the region from Richmond and northern Virginia. We should see people from Richmond that would have otherwise gone to the Richmond casino.”
A report out of his department found that “increasing competition, discounts and reliance on local patrons would diminish the economic impact of the casinos on Hampton Roads over time.” McNab isn’t alone in his opinion, either.
Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer believes the lack of a Richmond casino means the annual tax revenue for the city will be closer to the upper end of the $44.5 million estimate. He also called the vote “a development I don’t think we saw coming either.”
So, while downstate casino backers might be energized by the vote, there are reasons to curtail that enthusiasm. One of those is that they aren’t completely out of the woods yet in terms of having to deal with competition out of the greater Richmond area.
So, you’re saying there’s a chance?
What do you do when a city turns down such a project? Move the project beyond the city limits.
That’s exactly what proponents of a Richmond casino are now considering. Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins III seems to have a backup plan.
Liggins said that he believes the General Assembly will move on the issue instead. He named Chesterfield and Henrico counties as possibilities. Both lie just outside of Richmond proper. Liggins stated that he believes the General Assembly won’t want to leave central VA “without a gaming opportunity.”
It’s too early to tell whether that will happen. By the same token, there’s no guarantee that people in northern VA will flock to other VA casinos. It’s entirely possible the extra travel expense and time could act as a deterrent for at least some.
In the meantime, though, casino promoters in other VA cities are a little more optimistic. They have voters in Richmond to thank for their improved outlooks.