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After busting in 2021, Richmond doubles down and will vote again on a new casino

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jul 25, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- A judge granted the City of Richmond permission to hold a second vote on bringing a casino to Southside. Richmond voters rejected the casino project by a slim margin two years ago — 51% to 49% — but city leaders said they could not pass up the $500-million project and the projected tax revenue.

"This is going to be a game changer," Richmond City Council member Reva Tramell said after the ruling about the prospect of a casino.

“We just want it to go back to the people again," Richmond City Council member Mike Jones said. "If someone brings a half-a-billion dollar economic development project to your city, you take it. You take it all day long because we would never see this type of development on Bells Road."

“I listen to my people," Trammell added. "They were begging me, please Reva go for it, don’t give up, we still want it."

Those who oppose the casino plan say developers promise windfalls for the city, but bring little proof those financial windfalls ever materialize.

"Casinos are fundamentally an extractive industry, they’re not reproductive," Quinton Robbins, with Richmond For All, said around the time of the first vote in 2021. "We know this isn’t Apple computers. This isn’t going to create products that stimulate the economy, bring high wages.”

While the potential location of the casino remains the same as it did in 2021, a piece of property near Phillip Morris at Bells and Commerce roads in South Richmond, the are several differences between then and now.

Churchill Downs and Urban One are partners on the project, and we’re told new renderings and a new name will come out in the coming weeks.

Developers have agreed to a $25 million payment to the city if it passes and project $30 million in annual tax revenue for Richmond if it opens, which they argue will got to schools, infrastructure and public safety.

The project includes a resort hotel, entertainment venues, restaurants, and a 55-acre public park. All told, developers said the project would create around 1,300 jobs and no city money will go toward it's development.

“The people, a majority I believe, want to go there for entertainment, they want the restaurants, they want the park," Trammell said.

While city leaders who back the casino were successful in getting a second vote, ultimately it’s up to voters this November.

City leaders in Southside said this time it’s clear from the start where the project will be — there were three potential options around Richmond in 2021 — and they’re already working to reach skeptics.

“Look, it’s in an area that most of you never travel to. It’s an opportunity for us to increase tax revenue, the tax base of the city, so we don’t have to tax our way from homeowners, which is what we’re doing right now," Jones said.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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