Richmond residents head to the polls next week to vote on building a casino in the city and become the fifth city permitted to have casinos under the Virginia gambling law.
It will be the last of five Virginia cities to vote on a casino. Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth all passed casino referendums last November by large margins.
On Nov. 2, voters will decide if the $562.5 million Urban One Casino and Resort will go ahead at Walmsley Boulevard and Trenton Avenue in Richmond. If passed, the casino is expected to open in October 2024 with a 250-room hotel opening one year later.
The facility will be built at the site of the former Philip Morris Operations Center on Richmond’s Southside. The project is already behind its original plan. Initially the casino was to open by December 2023.
The city isn't new to gambling establishments. Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, owned and operated by Colonial Downs Group, has been operating in Richmond since 2019. Under Virginia law, Rosie's Gaming Emporiums are not considered casinos and do not provide the same type of games offered by casinos. Rosie's facilities operate Historical Horse Racing machines and offer off-track betting on horse racing.
Alfred Liggins, chief executive officer of Urban One, Inc., says the company is doing everything it can to educate people as to the significance and the importance of this project “because you have to vote for it in order for it to pass.”
Liggins says One Casino + Resort will bring in 4,500 jobs overall, with 1,500 remaining after construction having an average salary of $55,000 once the casino is built. Aside from a dozen new restaurants and a luxury hotel, Liggins says the $50 million in tax revenue for the city should also be a selling point.
Early Voting in Richmond
A handful of local public and political figures have already cast their ballots after the start of early voting on Sept. 17.
Current Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is voting yes for the project and said the casino will bring the city and state much needed revenue for schools, roads and more. U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine voted Sept. 20 and gave casino opponents a boost when he announced that he had voted against the proposed Southside gambling mecca. “He believes there are better ways to enhance economic development in Richmond,” Kaine’s communications department said in a release.
Meanwhile, Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, running again in the Nov. 2 election, voted yes for the casino adding, “I want to be the first one to throw those dice on that table.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, founder & president of National Action Network, endorsed the Urban One casino in an opinion piece published in the Richmond Free Press. “As you are reading, there are absolutely no black-built and black-owned gaming resort enterprises in this entire country,” Sharpton said. “But the time is right for Richmond, Va., to change the future of an entire industry that has historically regarded us merely as customers.”
From the local sports arena, Todd Parnell, CEO of the Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball team, is casting a yes vote for Urban One with hopes of making the city “an even greater tourist destination.”
The Selection of Urban One
Richmond’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel selected Urban One Casino and Resort in April after reviewing six proposals from well-known casino companies like Cordish Cos., Bally's and Golden Nugget, to name a few. The City Council approved and selected Urban One in June. By law only one casino can be built in Richmond.
Legislation adopted by the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Northam authorized the city to host a casino gaming establishment, subject to the residents of Richmond approving a casino referendum.
In addition to casinos, Virginia online sports betting launched in January and currently has nine sportsbooks live for bettors. Golden Nugget Online Gaming was the most recent sportsbook to go live on Sept. 30.