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As November nears, Richmonders remain divided on casino proposal

ONE Casino + Resort Project Rendering
Posted at 11:17 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 23:17:40-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond City Council voted 8-1 Monday night to forward the ONE Casino and Resort project in Richmond, meaning Richmond voters will have the final call on whether or not the project moves forward with a referendum on the November 2 ballot.

The debate during City Council’s meeting Monday sets the tone for arguments residents will hear in the months to come.

The developers of the ONE project have promised 1,300 full-time jobs, community investment that includes millions in upfront revenue to the city and another attraction to bring in outside visitors. City officials said the project would generate over $170 million in new tax revenue within the first five years.

Supporters of the project said the project would bring a historic investment in south Richmond, a community they said has seen years of disinvestment.

“This is probably the biggest develop I know in the 8th District in over 50 years,” said Reva Trammel, who represents the district where the project is slated on Richmond City Council.

“We’re asking you to vote yes to helping to grow minority and women-owned businesses, we’re asking you to vote yes for more affordable housing,” said Greta Harris, with Better Housing Coalition.

Multiple critics of the proposal spoke out against the plan prior to the vote by Council. They argued the gaming market in Virginia is oversaturated, with four other casinos planned in other cities, so revenue projections likely won’t meet even conservative estimates.

Opponents said the purported community benefits developers pitch rarely come to fruition and much of the new revenue generated comes from disadvantaged communities.

“Casinos are a tax on the poor. They transfer wealth away from low-income families to the wealthy. It is therefore absurd and shameful to call this project economic justice,” said Quinton Robbins with Richmond for All.

“I believe if the Southside was made priority one like many white, affluent areas of the city, they wouldn’t need Casino ONE,” said Allan-Charles Chipman, a community activist.

Candis Seward has lived off Bells Road near the proposed site for several years and is thinking of buying the home she rents before the project heads to voters.

“Me and the landlord, we’ve been talking about the pricing over the past two years,” she said. “I’m very realistic, therefore the pricing and the housing in the area is getting ready to rise.”

Like many of her neighbors, Seward supports the project because of the jobs and economic opportunity it promises.

“It being an actual casino and what it might cause for others is small compared to what it can do for a whole,” Seward said.

Seward said she hopes city leaders and the developers know that investment in south Richmond must mean more than one big project.

“They need to come up to the level where they can meet the needs of the residents here,” she said. “This area has been needing some love to it for a long time. It’s awesome that this casino is coming in, but mind the area even if the casino doesn’t.”