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Richmond's Rejection of a Casino is a Second Recent Defeat of a Large-Scale Economic Proposal

Jahd Khalil

Tuesday, voters in Richmond rejected a proposal that would’ve brought a Casino to the city, marking the second time in two years a major economic development project has been defeated in Richmond, with opponents saying the plan isn't inclusive.

In February 2020, Richmond’s city council killed a proposal that would’ve funded a private development near downtown Richmond with tax dollars. The project was backed by Dominion Energy’s CEO at the time and a well-funded campaign worked to get it approved.

Richmond For All, a progressive organization, knocked on doors in opposition to that project and the casino proposal. This time around people crowdfunded anti-Casino billboards and young Black leaders in the city taped their testimony to argue against it. Allan-Charles Chipman was one of them. The community organizer is looking ahead to what this means for how Richmond tries to bring jobs to Richmond’s Southside.

"The victory for me is when the officials will not look for an economic scheme and another shiny economic project, but will set the proper economic priority for funding Southside," he said of the Mayor and city council."It's important that they propose projects that everyone can actually get behind so that everyone can win. Uh, and we don't have, uh, some people being in snared and some people being enriched.

Mayor Levar Stoney backed both projects. In a statement he said his administration wouldn’t be deterred from bringing economic development opportunities to the city.

Virginia has seen an expansion of gambling options in recent years, and calls to gambling addiction hotlines increased during the pandemic. Last year the General Assembly passed a bill giving five cities the option to vote for a casino proposal. Voters in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol overwhelmingly approved casino projects in referendums in 2020. The Virginia Lottery will regulate casinos.

The proposed casino was chosen an advisory panel in Richmond. ONE Casino + Resort was proposed by Urban One, a multimedia company catering to Black audiences. It would have been the company's first casino, and the first Black-owned casino in the US.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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