Richmond postcard

Not even close

For the second time in two years, residents of Richmond, Virginia voted against casino gambling in their city. On Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposed Richmond Grand Resort and Casino, 58% to 41%. In November 2021, the results were extremely close: 51-49.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, residents in precincts closest to the planned casino location voted heavily for it, but they were outweighed by Richmonders further away. Those in opposition felt a casino would exploit the surrounding neighborhoods, which are among the poorest in the area and are predominantly Black.

Virginia’s elections on Tuesday shaped the future of the state legislature, but Samantha Barnett told the Times-Dispatch that she “came out explicitly to vote against the casino.” Growing up in Atlantic City, she said, “We literally watched this happen. I know there are messages about economic development, but they are putting this casino in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.”

Supporters, as is usually the case with possible casino projects, touted job creation, economic development, and increased tax revenue. That revenue would have gone to child care services. Mayor Levar Stoney, a strong proponent of a Richmond casino, said that $26.5 million would go to building two child care centers and then $19 million per year would go into a child care trust fund.

“The alternative is us trying to find ways through raising taxes, using the revenues that we currently have,” he said in September.

Probably the end

Urban One and Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) were the development partners for Richmond Grand Resort and Casino, a project estimated to cost $562 million. In addition to a casino, it would have included a 250-room hotel and 55-acre park. They spent $10 million on a door-to-door campaign to try to drum up support and voter turnout.

The contest for a Richmond casino dates back to 2020, when state lawmakers passed legislation to allow for five casinos in the state. Casinos have already opened in Bristol (Hard Rock), Portsmouth (Rivers), and Danville (Caesars). Another in Norfolk, operated by the Pamunkey Tribe, is still to come.

That leaves one more, which will likely be somewhere other than Richmond now. Petersburg, just south of Richmond, is a possibility, as local leaders have been pushing for an opportunity to hold a referendum, but the state legislature has not done the city any favors. In February, the state Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee voted against a bill that would have put a casino decision to local voters.

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