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Mayor Stoney on failed casino project: ‘It was a lost opportunity’

Mayor Stoney on failed casino project: ‘It was a lost opportunity’
Posted at 5:58 PM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-03 18:28:29-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- More than 51 percent of Richmonders voted against the casino proposal on Tuesday, with 69 precincts in the city reporting.

“Obviously, I’m very disappointed,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney told CBS 6 on Wednesday. “Mostly disappointed in the number of people missing out on good-paying quality jobs.”

Stoney reflected on a map of the city depicting the results of the referendum where most neighborhoods on the Northside opposed the casino while many voters south of the river back the project.

“I think that map was fascinating. We are still a divided community not just by the river but race as well,” Stoney explained. “I don’t think the vote was about race. I think when you look at the map this is where our white residents live, and this is where our black residents live. Our white residents voted no. Our black residents many voted yes.”

Stoney said the casino would’ve brought more than a half-billion dollars to the city over the next 10 years that would expand opportunity, keep taxes low and increase revenue.

"Opportunities like this don't come around every day. I said the same thing with Navy Hill [project]," Stoney said. "The folks who live in South Richmond overwhelmingly voted for this opportunity because they’re the ones in desperate need of these sort of jobs. But now that door has unfortunately closed."

Councilman Mike Jones, who represents the 9th District on the Southside, fought to bring the project to his constituents along Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond.

“I’m very disheartened at this point,” Jones stated. “I don’t think Richmond said no to the casino. You see the Southside said yes to the casino. What you see are other neighborhoods trying to dictate what goes on a particular part of the city.”

Both Jones and Stoney said they respect the results of the election and the democratic process.

“Southside said yes to this project, they said yes to jobs, they said yes to infrastructure,” Jones said. “They said yes to an investment we will not see again. We will not see a half-billion-dollar investment in this part of the city ever again.”

The non-profit Richmond4All ran a successful campaign against the casino.

“I feel extremely proud of the city of Richmond,” said Quinton Robbins, the group’s political director. “Casinos are fundamentally an extractive industry. They are not reproductive. We know this isn’t Apple computers. This isn’t going to create products that stimulate the economy, bring high wages.”

Robbins said the casino vote was reflective of the results for Virginia Governor as political newcomer Republican Glenn Youngkin beat the established Democrat and former Governor Terry McAuliffe.

"I think once again we pushed back against corporate control of our city, the ultra-wealthy trying to make decisions on our behalf and bring extractive and harmful projects to our city," he explained. "What you're seeing is tension within the Democratic Party coalition between the corporate wing and the wing that wants to fight for working people."

The CEO of One Casino and Resort echoed the elected leaders' disappointments.

"For the last two years, we have worked so hard to build a large and inclusive tent with our ONE Casino + Resort project. We had a lot of loyal supporters who worked tirelessly on behalf of this project and for whom we will be eternally grateful," Alfred Liggins wrote in an email following the defeat at the ballot box.

Liggins added his company may now work to build its casino in a city or county near Richmond. That process would first need to go through the Virginia General Assembly.

"We ran a robust campaign and strongly believe this is a huge, missed opportunity for Richmond residents to have a tourist attraction that would have provided the financial resources to improve schools and roads as well as enrich the lives of its citizens. Urban One has been a part of the fabric of Richmond for the last twenty-two years, and we will continue our tradition of serving the community,” Liggins said.

A spokesperson declined to answer when asked if Chesterfield County would welcome a casino to their locality.

“There is not a casino proposal before the citizens of Chesterfield to consider. Therefore, to speculate or comment further would be irresponsible,” the email said.

An email to Henrico County leadership went unanswered as of Wednesday afternoon.

“I’ll be sick to my stomach to see it somewhere in Central Virginia,” Jones responded. “But it’s not here. It’s still going to happen.”