Richmond City Hall sparked the discussion on the ONE Casino + Resort project again this week. The previous referendum saw this proposal just barely lose by less than 1200 votes. The new referendum, guaranteed by the 2022 state budget bill, is receiving diverse reactions, especially from key opposition figure, Paul Goldman.
The city officials back the $562 million project, forecasting 1,300 job opportunities for Richmond and an approximate $30 million yearly revenue for the city’s General Fund. The proposal also includes a one-off $25.5 million payment upon the project’s green light. The city assures these benefits will come with no expense to the taxpayer.
Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond explains, “It’s more than just a casino; it’s about creating 1,300 valuable jobs and an extra $30 million annual revenue. This can unlock countless opportunities for our residents, particularly those in South Richmond.
The officials at City Hall believe that this project can promote economic development and inclusiveness by creating jobs and increasing the overall income and resilience of Richmond. The ONE Casino + Resort, backed by Urban One and now joined by Churchill Downs Incorporated, will feature a 12-story luxury hotel, live entertainment, a conference center, audio-visual production studio, dining amenities featuring local Richmond restaurants, and a 55-acre park.
However, Paul Goldman, the experienced Democratic strategist and previous opposition leader, remains skeptical. Despite his former success, Goldman prepares for another challenge. He comments on the last campaign, “I believe Stoney and the Council knowingly misled the city. They gave away a deal not beneficial for the city and used the ‘Black owned Casino’ argument, which is a throwback to the city’s past divisive politics.”
Goldman has not seen any evidence indicating a change in this proposed deal. He says, “I am not 100% against it, but there’s no sign that anything is different from last time. It seems they now have more influential backers. It’s likely to be better organized and funded.”
Transparency is a major concern for Goldman and others opposing the plan. Goldman criticizes the new proposal for lacking details, deeming it “not transparent enough.” He contends that without detailed information about the 2023 process, there’s no valid reason for residents to shift their vote.
Despite these concerns, the opposition confronts a substantial challenge. Goldman anticipates the pro-casino group could spend up to $5 million on their campaign, with the support of leading political consultants and a potential $1 billion profit over the casino contract’s duration. It remains uncertain if the opposition can muster enough resources to fight the establishment once more.
In June, the Richmond City Council will formally review the proposal after receiving public feedback. If approved by the Council, the Virginia Lottery and Richmond Circuit Court will need to approve the referendum before it can go on the November ballot.
Those interested in the debate can attend a meeting held by Council Member Reva Trammell. It’s happening in the Richmond Southside 8th Voter District on Thursday, June 8, 2023, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at Satellite Restaurant & Lounge, near the proposed casino site. Various city officials and business executives are expected to join and engage in the discussion.
Below is a promotional video from the last referendum featuring Alfred Liggins, CEO of Urban One followed by an opposition video featuring a local citizen.