Richmond, Virginia is in the midst of deciding whether to approve a proposed $562 million resort casino on Tuesday. The ballot measure is a second attempt to get the project off the ground, after the city rejected a similar proposal two years ago. The developers have heavily invested in a pro-casino campaign, spending around $10 million to build support for the project. The Richmond Grand Resort and Casino would be located on the former site of a tobacco company off Interstate 95 in south Richmond and is a joint venture between media company Urban One and Churchill Downs, the operator of the Kentucky Derby.
The project would feature gambling options, a 250-room hotel, a 55-acre outdoor park, dining options, and a 3,000-seat concert venue. Boosters estimate that the casino will create 1,300 permanent jobs and have promised significant financial benefits, including a one-time upfront payment of $25.5 million to the city if the referendum passes, as well as $16 million in charitable donations over 10 years and $30 million in annual tax revenue.
Supporters of the project include business and labor organizations, some of the city’s faith leaders, leading civil rights groups, and the editorial board of Richmond’s independent weekly newspaper focused on the Black community. On the other hand, opponents have raised concerns about the negative impact of casinos on the working class and the potential for exacerbating problem gambling. The developers also faced controversy after a radio host on an Urban One station made widely condemned antisemitic remarks about a leading project opponent, prompting an apology from the developers.
Virginia politicians have already approved legislation allowing five casinos to be built around the state with voter approval, and three have opened in Bristol, Portsmouth, and Danville. A fourth is also slowly moving forward in Norfolk. The outcome of the vote in Richmond will determine whether the developers can move forward with their plans for the resort casino.