Hey Richmond, How Are We Betting on this Casino?


Ah, Richmond—where history, culture, and community converge. A city where the clash of new and old offers fertile ground for debate. Well, hold on to your seats, River City, because we’re about to roll the dice on our future once again.

Just three years ago, we shrugged off the $562 million South Side casino by a hair-thin margin. And yet, here we are again. Round two, ding-ding!

So, the mayor and corporations are back, and they’ve changed their tune. Urban One and Churchill Downs have decided to give the casino project a facelift. New name, new identity, and even shinier features—say hello to the Richmond Grand Resort and Casino.

The Offer on the Table

The rebranded proposal makes some compelling promises:

  • A 250-room luxury hotel
  • Outdoor pools and a spa
  • Restaurants and breweries
  • And don’t forget that high-tech film and audio production facility (because every casino needs one?)

Plus, they’re offering to donate $16 million over a decade, invest in equitable transit, and claim they’ll boost tourism. For South Side residents like Sasha Williams, it’s the dream of good-paying jobs that sweetens the pot.

Look, we get it. Jobs are good, and Richmond needs them. But let’s not rush into this.

Flashy Doesn’t Mean Thoughtful

Sure, the new proposal sounds fancy. But let’s remember the words of Alfred Liggins III, Urban One CEO, who acknowledged their previous mistake: “We knew entertainment, not politics.” This time they’re promising to focus more on “the content, not just the firepower.” While that’s a nice sentiment, is it enough to earn our trust?

Legalese and Red Tape

You’ve got to admire the audacity of these companies. Not only did they manage to get City Council to sign off on a second referendum (8-1, by the way), but they also navigated through a sea of legal challenges. Judge Marchant initially signed off, only to suspend his ruling due to a challenge led by Sen. Chap Petersen. But, surprise, we’re back in action now.

The Vulnerable Pay the Price

Let’s not overlook the glaring red flags. The average income in the neighborhood of the proposed site is under $25,000. Casinos prey on economically vulnerable communities. As Allan-Charles Chipman, a former 6th District City Council candidate put it: “Casinos are predatory industries.”

So, Where Do We Stand?

After all the back-and-forth and the legal hula hoops, the vote will likely be on our November ballots. There are passionate campaigns on both sides. “Richmond wins when we vote yes,” claim the fliers from the pro-casino folks. But the opposition is just as strong. The “No Means No Casino” committee has already racked up $135,000 in donations.

Before we make this decision, let’s ask ourselves: What kind of Richmond do we want to be? A city that dives into shiny but risky ventures, or a community that stands its ground and insists on thoughtful, sustainable growth for all of us?

So, we’re urging you, our dear readers, to cast your vote in our poll. Should Richmond roll the dice again on a casino, or should we cash in our chips and look for a better bet?

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.

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