Richmonders react to second shot at Urban One Casino

Posted at 12:21 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-23 12:21:19-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond City leaders are trying once again to bring a casino to the River City. Council re-introduced the plans during their meeting Monday night.

It comes two years after voters rejected a plan to let Urban One build a casino on the Southside, and just a few months after the General Assembly voted to kill Petersburg's chances of getting a casino.

"We’re pretty excited about it," said Richmonder Jerry Blow, who lives in the 8th District — not too far from Walmsley Boulevard, the area One Casino + Resort is hoping to do business.

"We think this is a great opportunity for Southside to shine," he explained. "It will bring jobs, restaurants, hotels, and property values. Our property value will probably increase.”

Blow's councilwoman, Reva Trammel, spoke in favor of the casino Monday night, saying she believes the close vote of 51% of city residents voting against the casino and 49% voting in favor could have been because of confusion surrounding it's proposed location.

Months before the city selected Urban One's plans, there were discussions about two other potential locations.

“There were 1,500 votes, and the 8th and 9th district took it by 80 to 85%," Trammel noted. "And I know that if we get another chance it’s gonna pass because we’re gonna make it clear – it’s not going to be in the 2nd, 1st, 4th. It’s going to be in the 8th district, my district."

But not everyone is on board with this second shot.

"Richmond has spoken on this issue," said Richmond resident, Blair Just. "And the fact that city council refuses to take our answer is indicative of a larger problem in terms of the relationship between the city council and the citizens of Richmond.”

Just said he’s worried the city is making a dangerous bet on the well-being of residents in that area.

"Gambling in this context is not like destination gambling," he expressed. "The folks who come to these casinos, if they happen, if they're allowed to happen, will be local folks. These are folks that are first of all, the least well-off financially to be able to afford in a casino in the first place.”

While one state study estimates a casino in Richmond could generate nearly $300 million in revenue in 2028, Just believes the risks associated aren’t worth it.

"They position a casino as a silver bullet for many of Richmond's financial woes," said Just. "It's a silver bullet in the foot."

As long as language in the state budget doesn’t block it, the future of One Casino will be back in the hands of Richmonders this fall.

"We are literally shooting ourselves in the foot if we allow a casino in this town," Just noted.

"South Richmond really needs this improvement," said Blow. "We really need it.”

City Council plans to formally consider and vote on the casino papers in June, following public comment. Once approved by the city, the Virginia Lottery and Richmond Circuit Court will also have to approve the referendum to add it to the November ballot.

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