The pandemic has significantly altered the gambling industry, with in-person gambling at casinos transitioning to increased reliance on mobile apps. One such sign of this shift is the proposed $562 million resort casino in Virginia’s capital city, Richmond. Voters were deciding whether to allow the gambling and entertainment complex to proceed, following a narrow rejection of the proposal two years prior.
The developers returned with a retooled proposal, investing around $10 million into a pro-casino campaign and garnering support from Mayor Levar Stoney and major area business groups. The project, known as the Richmond Grand Resort and Casino, would be a joint venture between media company Urban One and gambling operator Churchill Downs.
The project would include gambling options, a hotel, park, dining options, and a 3,000-seat concert venue. Boosters anticipated that the casino would provide 1,300 permanent jobs and significant financial benefits for the area. Additionally, the developers committed to charitable donations, upfront payments to the city, and annual tax revenues.
Supporters, including business and labor organizations, faith leaders, and civil rights groups, advocated for the project, emphasizing the potential economic and community benefits. However, opponents raised concerns such as the exacerbation of problem gambling and the extraction of wealth from the working class. In the final days of the campaign, developers apologized for antisemitic remarks made about a leading project opponent on an Urban One station.
In 2020, Virginia politicians passed legislation allowing the construction of five casinos around the state, provided they secured voter approval. Three casinos have opened, and a fourth is in progress. The introduction of these casinos aimed to provide an economic boost to struggling areas in the state. With the transition to mobile apps and the opening of new casinos, the gambling industry is clearly rebounding from the impact of the pandemic.