Ballot-bound: Richmond Formally OKs Urban One Casino Referendum

Written By Dann Stupp on June 15, 2021 - Last Updated on August 1, 2023
Urban One casino referendum.

On Election Day in November, voters will decide the fate of a Richmond casino referendum.

The Richmond City Council on Monday voted to approve the project’s operator and site. By doing so, councilmembers formally OK’d the project for the November ballot.

Now, with a simple majority on Nov. 2, voters would approve the construction of the proposed $600 million Virginia casino.

Richmond received six proposals for the casino-resort. Ultimately, the city’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel selected the proposal from Urban One, a Maryland-based media conglomerate. The company, which owns a number of radio stations in Richmond, teamed with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment on the project. PPE is the parent company of Virginia’s Colonial Downs racetrack and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums.

If voters green-light the project in the Virginia capital city, it’ll join four other cities that recently voted in favor of casinos.

Location was key for Urban One casino referendum

Only one city council member, Katherine Jordan, voted against the Urban One casino referendum on Monday. The final count was an 8-1 vote in favor of the project.

However, other council members also expressed trepidation and voiced their personal concerns. However, they said they ultimately wanted voters, not elected officials, to make the final decision. Hence, the approval of the ballot measure.

Community activists and other interested parties also spoke during Monday’s meeting. Some folks expressed the usual casino concerns:

  • Potential crime
  • Potential strain on city resources
  • Preying on vulnerable Richmonders

Some Richmond casino proposals had received heavy criticism because of their proposal location. In fact, a proposal from The Cordish Cos. was the runner-up in the selection process.

Urban One will build the casino in an industrial area of South Richmond. Cordish, though, wanted to build in the trendy Scott’s Addition neighborhood. Residents there mounted some organized opposition, which likely helped Urban One’s chances to land the project.

Urban One reacts to vote

During Monday’s meeting, many supporters focused on the benefits of the project. Namely? Revenue and jobs.

Casino gambling may not be their first choice for a city rejuvenation. However, as Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins stressed in a statement, the perks are plentiful:

“This project will be funded entirely with private investment and will generate millions of dollars in critically needed new tax revenue that can be used for schools, affordable housing, workforce development, infrastructure and other city priorities. This will be a transformational project for the city, attracting additional tourism revenue that will lift up all of Richmond and improve the quality of life for those who call this city home. At the same time, ONE will create 1300 well-paying jobs with profit-sharing for employees and pathways to successful careers. We will also be true community partners, investing with non-profits and worthwhile causes across the city.”

The company plans to push that messaging in the months leading up to the November vote.

ONE Casino + Resort, a 300,000-square-foot resort, would create 5,600 construction and permanent full-time jobs.

Additionally, Richmond would receive $100 million in upfront and recurring payments. It’d also have an estimated $5.7 billion impact over 10 years.

Overall, Urban One officials say the project will have 50-plus minority investors and 50% minority participation in jobs.

5 for 5 with Virginia casinos?

If voters approve the Richmond project, it’ll join four other casinos in Virginia.

In November 2020, voters in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth also voted in favor (overwhelmingly, in fact) of casino projects. Those casino-resorts are scheduled to open in 2022 and 2023.

Officials hope to open One Casino + Resort by December 2023.

If voters approve the project, it would be the only Black-0wned casino in the US.

Photo by AP / Steve Helber
Dann Stupp Avatar
Written by
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.

View all posts by Dann Stupp