November 2 is election day in Virginia, but early voting is underway across the commonwealth. For residents in the capital city of Richmond, along with determining the state’s next governor, they’re being asked if they want to authorize a single casino resort to spur economic activity locally.
Richmond qualified to ask residents if they wish to bring the region a commercial casino under 2020 legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D). The capital opted to delay its local referendum by a year to review a half-dozen pitches submitted to the city by interested casino developers.
Richmond eventually went with a scheme from Urban One, a publicly traded media conglomerate. Urban One has partnered with experienced casino firm Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) in presenting Richmond with a $565 million undertaking known as ONE Casino + Resort.
The casino plan targets vacant land just south of the Philip Morris tobacco plant along I-95 at Walmsley Boulevard and Trenton Avenue.
“South Richmond has been waiting for an economic development opportunity of their own,” Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins told Virginia Business this week. “Other sections of Richmond have seen tremendous growth in recent years, but that growth has not, to date, included South Richmond.”
If a simple majority of Richmond votes back the casino question, Urban One and P2E will be cleared to proceed with the enterprise. Early 2021 voting began on September 17.
Vote Finally Begins
Virginia voters in four cities backed local ballot referendums during the 2020 general election that approved one casino resort for each locale. Many in Richmond hope the capital will join Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol.
ONE is going to be a catalyst for new jobs, critically needed tax revenue, and additional economic development and opportunities in this part of the city,” added Liggins.
Urban One has embarked on a campaign to woo over Richmond voters. The company has put up billboards along I-95, and bombarded television and radio commercials with spots highlighting the potential benefits of answering “yes” to the ballot question.
The company claims ONE Casino + Resort would generate $500 million in new tax revenue and a $5.7 billion economic impact over the casino’s first 10 years in operation, and bring 3.7 million tourists to Richmond each year. Urban says it would hire 1,500 permanent positions with an average compensation package of $55,000 per year.
Not everyone is on board. Richmond for All, a nonprofit, opposes gambling in the city. The Richmond for All committee claims that a casino would “rob our community just to make a few folks wealthy.”
The gaming question facing Richmonders is cut and dry. It reads:
“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?”
Those who want to bring ONE Casino + Resort to reality will vote “yes.”
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