While the mainstream media outlets are heavily focused on the Governor’s race in the US state of Virginia, there is another issue on the ballot in the capital city there as well – the Richmond Casino Authorization Referendum.
The Virginia Assembly passed Senate Bill 36 and the governor signed it into law in 2020. The bill authorized five cities in the state to hold referendums asking voters in those cities to give a simple thumbs up or thumbs down to the idea of building a casino.
Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth voters all approved the initiative in city elections on November 3, 2020. Now voters in the historic city of Richmond are being asked if they approve of a specific casino resort project owned by Urban One – a NASDAQ-listed (UONE), an American media conglomerate based in Silver Spring, Maryland. The company was founded by Cathy Hughes in 1980. Urban One media properties primarily operate in African American communities.
Luxury Towers, 2000 Slots, 200 Live Nation Events per Year
If approved by the city’s voters, One Casino + Resort would feature a 90,000 square foot gaming floor with 2,000 slot machines, over 100 gaming tables, a competition poker room, and a sportsbook. In addition to gaming, the hotel is planned to offer 250 4-Star, AAA 4-Diamond luxury rooms, but has the capacity to expand to 600 rooms in the future.
Amenities include more than a dozen restaurants and bars, a resort-style spa, and an event center that could host up to 3,000 people. Plans call for more than 200 entertainment events per year at the center hosted by Live Nation according to the Richmond Host Community Agreement, making the project a true destination casino resort.
Additionally, a 55 acre park would be located on the property with 20 acres of usable space and 35 acres of preserved wetlands as well as TV & Radio production studios with a 15,000 sq ft soundstage. The company has committed $50,000,000 over ten years for original productions from the new location to reach as much as 82% of the African American community throughout the United States.
Would be Only Black-Owned Casino in the United States
Those working for the referendum and against it have lengthy lists of pros and cons. The city of Richmond has said that Urban One would be the only black-owned casino in the United States; would create 1,500 permanent jobs with a starting wage of $15 per hour and that employees would be offered profit-sharing and full company benefits. Some estimates indicate that 60% of the workforce would be city residents and that African Americans would comprise 50% of those jobs or 30% of the entire payroll at a minimum.
The project would be fully funded by Urban One with no obligation to the city. The minimum required investment is set at $562,534,705.
The referendum simply asked residents of Richmond, who are the only ones eligible to vote on the back of the ballot issue, to answer yes or no to the following:
Shall casino gaming be permitted at a casino gaming establishment in the city of Richmond, Virginia, at 2001 Walmsley Boulevard and 4700 Trenton Avenue, Richmond, Virginia 23234 as may be approved by the Virginia Lottery Board?
The well known civil rights activist and political commentator, Rev. Al Sharpton, whose radio show is syndicated through Urban One, has come out in favor of the project saying it was a powerful economic opportunity for the Richmond community, specifically the southside which has seen disproportionate struggles, according to ABC 8News.
Last Minute Rallies For and Against
However, earlier this year, local faith leaders expressed concerns about the project. Pastor Sherman Anderson of Bread of Life Temple Church of God in Christ, located on the Southside of the city near the proposed casino’s location said: “It’s loaded with churches.” He added, “I oppose the casino altogether. I don’t think we should be out there gambling.”
Saturday saw activists on both sides of the issue out in force with proponents holding an afternoon rally on Richmond Highway at the Satellite Restaurant and Lounge – while opponents gathered to rally against the development.
The Virginia governor’s race and the casino referendum are both expected to be close calls with no clear winner expected at the time the polls close Tuesday, November 2.
Activists make last effort to win over voters ahead of casino vote Tuesday, ABC 8News, October 30,2021
BallotPedia, Richmond, Virginia, Casino Authorization Referendum (November 2021), October 31, 2021