Why Vote No On RVA Casino? Here are a few local opinions.

by | Nov 1, 2021 | COMMUNITY

While the citizens of Richmond have been inundated with deeply-funded promotional materials touting the overwhelming benefits of the One Casino project, the voices of local residents who devote their lives to bettering the community have been largely drowned out. These are some of those voices, from the real people who make this city what it is, and work to make it the best that it can be.

This article was paid for by Vote No on RVA Casino.
For more information go to nocasinorva.com

Allan-Charles Chipman
Faith leader, Organizer, Policy Analyst

“One of the things I love to say is that just because something is current, doesn’t mean that it’s new. And Richmond is a city that is very much still trapped in patterns. There are different patterns. There are patterns of freedom fighters. You have your Barbara Johns and your Brother Gabriels, and people who fought for freedom. But there’s still very much a pattern of exploitation. And when you think about Bryan Stevenson saying “Slavery didn’t end, it just evolved,” a lot of the areas of exploitation in Richmond simply have evolved. Dr. King talked about how many people associate prejudice with racism, but have trouble recognizing the economic exploitation of racism. And so when we think about the monuments that just came down, that slavery was very much about prejudice, but it was also very much about economic exploitation. And I don’t think it’s ironic that in the same year these are coming down, there’s a new monument to exploitation that’s being offered, which I believe the casino is, as I jokingly call One Casino, One Colony. Because it’s very much an extractive measure. It’s very much a predatory industry, from the mouths of the people who are at the top of it themselves. So I got into the fight against the casino because it was another one of the patterns reemerging and evolving and presenting itself as an opportunity. But when you look from urban renewal to all these other types of attacks on – really on Black freedom and Black progress – they always are couched in good language.”

“The city has always had revenue coming in, but the problem is, it hasn’t prioritized the Black side of town, and the 8th and the 9th districts […] Gambling and casinos, 40-50% of their revenue – and this is from the Institute on American Values who did quite an exhaustive report on it – 40-50% of their revenue comes from people who are addicted to gambling. It really is mostly funded by people who are addicts. The DSM recently listed gambling addiction, for the first time in its history, as substance abuse, even though it’s technically not a substance, because they found that neurologically […] the same type of dopamine that’s released and the same type of fiending that occurs in a cocaine addict also occurs in someone who is anticipating a monetary reward while they’re gambling. So it’s very dangerous, it’s very exploitative, and I’m glad that people are looking beyond the talking points to really examine what’s best for Richmond.”

“Historically, there has always been room at the table for Black people who are willing to exploit their own. What happens when you have Black Power that has forsaken the politics of liberation and is about the politics of exploitation? Is wealth extraction and rigged gaming a part of the Black tradition? Or is it a part of the colonial-settler tradition? When we’re talking about exploiting people and the tradition that’s there, that’s not part of our Black tradition. When we think about Maggie Walker, her motto was, “We will put our pennies together and turn our pennies into dollars.” Her strategy wasn’t “we’re going to take your pennies so we can have dollars.” That’s exploitation using Blackness as a way into exploiting communities. Simply saying that because there’s a Black person involved in it, you ought to support everything that happens – that’s not true. And I think that’s using the sacred tradition of Blackness in a way that is shameful in my opinion.”

Aurora Higgs
She/Hers They/Them
Black LGBT Community Advocate

“A lot of the reasons for my personal objections to the casino are not even categorically around casinos. But it has a lot to do with our history as a city, and how I know that if we bring in a casino that so overtly values profits over people, our city is not going to have the cultural infrastructure to ensure that people are remaining safe, and have wraparound services when this massive build displaces people in a portion of Richmond that is already forgotten about, and is sort of left and neglected. There are a lot of people who still live in this area that is thought to be mostly industrial. That’s where a lot of low-income folks are living. That’s where I was living – in that corridor. The thought of there being such a massive build there, the traffic that’s going to come in, the impact on housing prices that it’s going to have on people who own property in that community while also furthering the agenda of gentrification in the surrounding areas, that’s going to make it hard for people like me. I’m privileged. I would not say I’m low income. I’m middle class, but I still can’t afford to buy a house in Richmond on the income that I have. And to be quite honest, some of the properties that I could reasonably afford would be in that exact area of the casino.”

“The casino is a business, so I don’t put all of the obligations for understanding how it impacts the humans who live there [on them]. I put that obligation on our city council, on our mayor. And from what I’ve seen, the money that we would get from an endeavor like a casino would not be used to lift up the people who are at the bottom, it would just be used to create more economic advantage in our community. But economic advantage does not equal human advantage. It means more people who already have advantage getting even more advantaged, and people who have historically been disadvantaged experiencing a wider gap between them and those who are at the top.”

“What I need from my community are leaders and representatives who can balance the needs of the people in the community as well as the needs of boosting the economy. I don’t believe that we’re in a place that if we brought a casino in it would do more good than harm. Until I see a plan for a more holistic set of structures and systems and institutions that are meant to benefit people first and the economy second, I’m sticking with no.

“Just because this casino is owned by Black business owners does not mean it’s for Black people. The argument that a Black owned casino will help Black people is an incomplete argument for me. I don’t understand what in there helps black people. I understand how it helps a handful of black people – those who own it. That is the most advantageous place to be in a casino, is if you’re going to be owning it. But who are going to be the folks who are losing their money, who are coming in and expressing addictive tendencies in a place that is ready to exploit those preexisting challenges with gambling? This is going to function as a place where the elderly and folks who already have issues with gambling are going to find a haven. And I think folks in those communities deserve a haven, but I think it should be one that’s not exploitative. And I think it should be one that sees the value in their contribution, and I don’t think that’s what a casino does. Once a casino gets built it has to continue to justify its expenses. It’s going to have to justify its footprint both on our environment and in our society. And that means it’s going to continually have to feed itself, and that’s a pretty big undertaking […] The majority of the revenue that this casino will need to justify its existence will be coming off of the backs of people who are already oppressed and already under-resourced relative to their oppression.”

“If it takes three hundred million dollars to keep this casino going, I would say that’s gotta come from somewhere. That is a lot of money. Where could that three hundred million reasonably go otherwise, is my question. I need for folks who are already experiencing hardship to be given a voice, not be taken advantage of. The famous saying in the casino world is “the house always wins.” And that also aligns with capitalism. They cannot function unless they are making more money than they’re spending. So it is by nature an entity that has to consume more than it gives back. Is that something I want in my community? No. I think that our community deserves more caring, careful, intentional and compassionate structures in it, so that one day if we do decide to have an entity that is one that makes money more than it gives money out, at least we know that we’re in a society that has those wraparound services to deter against victimizing people who are already victims. Right now we don’t live in that society. We don’t live in a fair society. And so we risk deepening the inequities that already exist. We live in the former Capitol of the Confederacy, and we just got one of the last popular Confederate statues taken down. Is this the legacy that we want to build in its place?”

Damon Harris
Real Estate Professional, Community Educator

“I’m Damon Harris. I am an original Virginian, born in and raised Petersburg. Grew up in New England, Rhode Island. I came back to Virginia 16 years ago just to come back home. Currently I own a real estate group where we focus on three things. I’m a former social worker, so all my work is socially related; somehow, some way, trying to service humans. So my real estate group is based off of humans, not property. So we focus on education, we focus on fighting inequality through ownership, responsible investing, as well as educating people on the history of Richmond real estate and Richmond housing. We’ve been doing this for about seven years. For some home buyers, our goal is to educate people on how to be responsible, and how to not gentrify a community, how not to displace people, and how to support legacy residents. So that’s how I find myself here, because one of the key things I believe is that people come first.”

“I don’t support [the casino] because of a myriad of reasons. I try to take a numbers approach to it because I am in real estate, so what I look at is the fact that there’s not enough housing for people. There’s not enough affordable housing for people. There’s not enough entry level housing for people. And ever since the casino got mentioned, speculators have been coming to the region, buying homes for AirBnB, buying homes that they assume is going to jump in value, and immediately – before even one quarter is put in a slot machine – you have people being displaced. So no matter what’s on the billboard, what’s really happening is people are going to have to go. And people can’t come back home, because they want another slot machine. And that’s my first reason.”

“My second reason is that because I’m from New England, we have different casinos up there. And they all came there with the same pitch: community, small business, community, small business. They just use that. They learned that word, community. And what happened was small businesses were pushed out, because the casino had everything that the smaller businesses in the community were once offering. I also found that the prices of rent went up, but no income went up. And the prices of rent went up not because there was a need, but because they thought that they could leverage the casino to have the people that worked there move there. And so I never saw anything in my own community that I left that benefited from a casino. So when One Casino started to come around, those buzzwords were back. And I felt like they began to leverage those buzzwords by leveraging other community members to get people to believe it, instead of understanding the true impact of what a casino means.”

“It’s not a Black casino. It has Black faces that promote and pump the casino. It’s an entity. It’s not a Black casino. It’s not a white casino. It’s a casino. It’s made for people to stop off the highway and gamble and keep going. It’s made for people to hope that they can pay some bills by hittin’ large on the slot machine, and be broke. It’s not a Black casino, it’s not a white casino. They have black faces on the front of the casino, but it’s an entity that’s owned by way more than Black people. They have Black heads of the corporation, but it’s not owned by Black people.”

“The outside money that I believe the casino would bring in is not directed to servicing the community, it will be directed to servicing shareholders, and the community would get a drop in the bucket to appease the community voices. I don’t agree with the fact that they’re leveraging Black faces to get Black votes.”

Jon Baliles
Former Richmond First District Representative

“Hi, I’m Jon Baliles and I’ll be voting no on the casino referendum on the back of the ballot on November second. I have been opposed to all four gambling proposals in this city, and I agree with Senator Kaine’s opposition, that there are better ways to enhance economic development in Richmond, especially south of the river. There are big promises that project the gambling revenues will be a big win for the city, but when casinos win, the people lose. In this referendum, I’ll be voting for the people, and no on the casino.”

Kwame Binta
Financial Educator, Community Organizer, Founder of Universal Negro Improvement Association Division 456

“We don’t need a casino in Richmond, Virginia. That’s just going to create more problems in the community. People are going to have this false hope that they’re going to hit this, and all their problems would be solved. What we really need here in this area, and really everywhere, is a real true financial education. Let me ask you something, if you lost 98% of your power, where would you be at? You’d probably be on life support or dead. And our US dollar has lost 98% of its buying power since it was created. So this thing called inflation has been robbing us since 1913. The dollar continues to get weaker, that’s why today people gotta work two jobs just to make ends meet. And then we have workers who are working who live in homeless shelters because they’re just not paying us. Wall Street investors are making record profits while the masses of people are suffering. We have people living right here in Richmond, Virginia under bridges, in parks, in cars, because they can’t even afford a place to live. A casino is not going to solve all the problems that we have.”

“As I see it, in the beginning there will probably be some excitement and stuff like that, and people will come there. But in the long run, it’s not going to sustain. I believe it’s going to create more crime and more poverty for most people, because the addiction of gambling is something that a lot of people might not have dealt with, but you put a casino here and I’m pretty sure that gambling addiction is going to rise in this area. I don’t see the casino, in anything I saw, they’re going to have some kind of support system for people who become addicted to gambling.”

“The people don’t have three-hundred million dollars, really. I don’t see how they’re going to extract three-hundred million out of people’s pockets who don’t even have the money, really, to invest in a project like that. And if they are, that money should be going elsewhere. We need better schools, we need better equipment inside our schools, we need to think about the environment that we live in and try to realize that we’re destroying our planet and focus on things that’s going to sustain this environment and life itself. We could use that money for a whole lot of other things other than building a casino.”

“Most people who hit the lottery, three to five years later they’re broke. Because they have no financial literacy. We need to educate the people on how to get free from this current system, this monetary system of debt and wage slavery. People are gambling because they’re looking for other ways to make money, because whatever they’re doing is not making it happen. There are so many people that’s going to be evicted from their homes because of this Covid 19, and a casino is not the answer.”

“I remember when they started the Virginia Lottery and they said all this money was going to go into the schools of Virginia. I don’t see it. We still got schools that’s run down and old and dilapidated. They gonna make promises like they always do. But do they keep those promises? Rarely do they ever do that.”

Mike Kemetic
President of New Air Richmond, Community Organizer, Music Advocate and DJ

“At its core I would definitely say that a casino, in just its general nature, is a predatory format, in my opinion. The typical statement is that the house always wins. That’s something that’s been known for a very, very long time. So when you look at that as something that you’re going to bring into a community, you have to really think about what the real objective is for the people that are pushing it, and what they’re really trying to do around the community. So looking at it from that base level, I kind of have a problem with there being a casino. As far as being here in the City of Richmond, I think there are a variety of different things. First of all, one thing I don’t think people think about is that there are already three casinos that are confirmed to be built in the state of Virginia. There are going to be two in the 757, and one in Danville. Why are we building a fourth one right in the same corridor like that? That doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s being called a destination point, but when you’ve got DC that’s already very well established with their casino, you’ve got two in the 757, and one in Danville, where are these people going to come from that supposedly want to come to Richmond?”

“On another level, I don’t know that the numbers are going to add up in the way that they’re being presented. Again, I look at the fact that there are three other casinos being built in the state of Virginia and they’re all kind of bouncing off the same numbers. And that’s why they’re in such a rush to get all of them built at the same time, because once one or two of them go up and the numbers start coming in, they’re going to realize that they aren’t the numbers they’ve been projecting. Because every casino is using the same numbers. Where are all these people going to come from?”

“Probably the third thing I would say would just be on a community benefit level in general. It’s just not a very positive way to build your financial future. If you have a variety of industries that are thriving, maybe sometimes you can do that. But it seems like Richmond always wants to take some big shiny thing and make it the silver bullet that’s going to solve the things for the community, without taking the time to build from the ground up with the community the things that need to be done that are really going to be sustained and have a lasting impact. So without those things being into the mix, there’s no way that I can really support it. A lot of people talk about the fact of it being a Black owned casino, but I don’t think a lot of people really know the intricate workings of how that is, and how this is really just a part of the same network that owns Colonial Downs and Rosie’s. So there is a big promotional push, as anybody with a mailbox in the city of Richmond has probably seen, because they realize it’s so important to be hammering away and hammering away at people with the numbers […] Because once you dig below that, you start to really realize what’s really going on, and most people wouldn’t support that.”

“They’re billing it as a destination casino, when really it’s going to be a local casino that a lot of local people in close proximity to that, mainly being Hillside Court and residents in that part of town, are really going to lose out on it. It’s already very clear that the majority of people that play the lottery are really the people who least should be playing the lottery in a lot of different ways. But it’s a desperation, you know, there are a lot of desperate people here in the city of Richmond, there are a lot of desperate people around the country, and casinos prey on that.”

“Even down to the fact that you can have casino machines that are programmed to whatever the casino decides they want them to give the return at. So if the casino decides, the popular term is “do you want to fleece the sheep, or do you want to slaughter it?” Do you want to keep getting people, giving them enough feedback to keep them coming back, or do you want to just have waves of people coming in that you basically just take everything that they have and then they go home broke. And so that’s part of the question that you ask based on the model that you want for your casino, and that you project for your casino. So with this it’s going to be a slow fleecing, because you want the same people in the community coming back and back and back.”

“I don’t necessarily see it as any type of beneficial or positive impact specifically for Black people in the city of Richmond. I think it’ll be a much clearer deficit to the people that are in close proximity. Which are overwhelmingly poor, and mostly poor Black people. There are a lot of poor white residents out there also. A casino by definition and by its structure is a predatory model. So regardless of what the return is, there are going to be people who lose a tremendous amount on that, and there’s no reason that you have to base your city’s economy on that. It doesn’t make any sense to make that trade off with part of your population.”

Chelsea Higgs-Wise
Community Organizer, Co-Host of Race Capitol, Lead Cannabis Reform Organizer

“What brings me here today is I’m a longtime Richmond resident who understands that building this casino is not going to secure the future for my Black siblings, for the Black community, or even the needs of the daughter that I’m raising.”

“The core of my opposition is that casinos don’t help communities. The only way to win in a casino is to own one, and we know the basis of a casino is not going to be regenerative for our folks, which are being evicted, that are being gentrified out of good food source areas, that don’t have good, quality schools, that don’t have transportation. And so my core reason for resisting this casino is that this is going to further the detriment of the Richmond Black community.”

“I’ve witnessed Richmond under Black leadership for years, and unfortunately, many of the leaders that are proposing this casino have proposed the gentrified ordinances, have proposed the eviction ordinances, and so Black leadership in Richmond does not mean Black liberation. And it hasn’t for years, unfortunately. So a Black-owned casino, for me, does not equal Black futures, it equals wealth at the very top for a very few that have proximity to whiteness, and that are going to use the same tools of white supremacy and whiteness to extract from us.”

“Richmond’s legacy of proposing the main attraction is something that we have to recognize as a whole community, and resist continually. They already promised to bring this casino proposal back if they lose. And so it does not matter what main attraction they are coming up with this time, we have to understand that all of these proposals mean the same thing; that the top will get rich. And maybe this time it includes a couple Black faces. But we’ve always seen that – in American history, in Virginia’s history, and in Richmond’s history. There have always been Black faces at the top as they plan out the development for our death, and for our genocide, honestly.”

“Richmond is no longer a Black chocolate city. Our majority is being pushed out, or unhoused, or hungry, and a casino is only going to put us back in our place on the plantation to serve in hospitality, to serve the top, to be surveillanced in a new police precinct. How, after 2020, are we building a new police precinct? A hundred acres. Even the way they describe it in acreage makes me think of a plantation.”

“It scares me because it resembles too much of Richmond’s history that shows we have always been owned and operated by people outside of Richmond, while the Richmond working class, labor class, poor class, is here making the profit for others. And now that’s what we’re going to rebuild in this shiny casino with a hundred acres. Who in the world to they expect to maintain that land? And so the areas that we see people being pushed in and lived in are the new slave quarters. This is not for Richmond’s future, and we have to resist this casino.”

“I think it’s important that we start listening to folks that have read the fine print as well, and we open up space to hear folks that believe in this. I’ve asked them what they want; do you want better schools? Well this casino project only says that it may give money to schools. There are no promises to schools. In the fine print there are promises to the police. And so I think it’s important that we start asking; what do you want from Richmond? Do you want better housing? That allocation – that money for Southside – is not actually promised. All of the money is going to go to Richmond City, all nine districts. And if we look at the history, allocation of that money when it’s not in the fine print of exactly what district, what neighborhood, we see the money never trickles down to us. And so we ask ourselves, how do we get better schools, how do we get more housing, how do we get opportunities to bring in income so that we can survive? Well that starts from our own neighborhoods and not the Main Attraction. That’s always been the Richmond Hail Mary. Well look how it’s getting us. Look where it’s trying to take us. We are neglecting our arts community, we are neglecting our creators. We could be a city that attracts through our main events. And there are main events. There are plural and there are many, and they deserve to be invested in, instead of just one shiny object that’s going to bring in outsiders and make us uniformed servers to people that don’t care about us, that don’t care about Richmond.

“You’re not going to see your local artist on the stage. You’re not going to see your local painter. You’re not going to hear their voices unless they are cherry picked out. And you can tell who they are right now, because they are dancing around for this casino. They just want their spot. And unfortunately, if we see any history, they’re going to get left out too. So what I would say to people that believe in this, lets turn that belief back onto Richmonders, and not just the top one percent of Richmond that might look like us. Let’s turn it back on ourselves, that we see every single day in our community. Let’s turn that belief on us.”

Viola Baskerville
Virginia Lawyer and Politician

“I am a Richmond native. I grew up in the east end of Richmond, in fact I grew up in the community called Woodville, and you could see Creighton Court out of my back door and Fairfield Court out of the front door. So very much in the segregated community of Richmond. I grew up and went to public schools here, and actually graduated from the college of William and Mary. I’ve been in local politics for quite some time. Elected to office, city council in 1994. And then the House of Delegates, and then served in the Kaine administration as Secretary of Administration. So I know Richmond very well. I know Virginia very well.”

“I think in 1994 neighborhood safety, neighborhood development, city core development, and of course crime, was a big issue in 1994. People were afraid to come out of their doors at night, and of course murders were on the rise. And I think now, some of the same issues – what is our city going to look like? What is sustainable development? Who are we, as a city? How can we leverage our best history, how can we leverage what’s best in us? And most of the successful things that I think we’ve seen in Richmond have been organic. When we look at changes in zoning for downtown businesses and for people to live downtown, when we look at leveraging our art community, when we look at leveraging some of the physical spaces that we have, those have made the space and the City of Richmond successful.”

“I don’t think [the casino] is sustainable long term. I think casinos have mixed results. I’m concerned about the environment around casinos. I’m concerned about the story that’s out there, that no city resources will be engaged. Anytime anything is constructed you have city resources. You have infrastructure, sidewalks, you have the police that are going to be coming in for public safety. You’re going to have public resources go to this project. And the main thing that really concerns me, is that it’s not organic. It’s not from Richmond. It’s not created by Richmonders. It’s as if something foreign has been imposed upon the citizens of the City of Richmond.”

“Who is the casino depending upon to make the money, to put money into their coffers? Are they depending on the wealthy gamblers? Does Richmond have those high-ranking gamblers that are going to be putting all that money into the casino? Or is it going to be feeding off the individuals that are on fixed income, limited income, who are thinking that that fifty dollar bet is going to turn into a hundred thousand, two hundred thousand? What about the people that have serious gambling problems? What about the people who are just not able to sustain income coming out of their pocket all the time?”

“We know the history of casinos. They’re a mixed bag. They don’t necessarily produce the promised income, resources, commitment to the city. They don’t necessarily produce the economic growth that people expect them to. So regardless of who owns it, who runs it, a casino may not be in the best interest of the locality.”

Parker Agelasto
Former City Council Member of the 5th District

“I’m a resident of the city of Richmond. I’ve been here since 2005. Since that time I’ve served seven years on the Richmond City Council, and I’ve raised a family, and continue to raise my two kids in the city of Richmond. I’m married. And I would simply say that I’m here to support what is best for Richmond looking at the long view, not just the short term, and understanding what is impacting us today, but what will solve our future needs, and putting into place the structure governmentally but also socially that we need to advance everybody.”

“So Rosie’s for me, was a really difficult vote on the Richmond City Council. It was the opening of a door into a realm that the city hadn’t seen. It was no longer really off-track betting that the city used to have when Colonial Downs operated. It was now what was being billed as historic horse racing betting, but it was being done with slot machines, basically. It was a little bit of skill, but most of it was going to be luck, and you don’t have to have any skill to just go in there and throw your money in. When it was being presented there was promises of a lot of tax revenue. A real big number. And for a city that had a lot of needs – and still has a lot of needs – it’s very tempting to be lured by the big incentive of taxes that the council could then spend at a future date. For me, and looking it, just like I would look at any other project that came before the city council, my big question was, at what expense?”

“There’s opportunity cost, obviously. But for me, looking at the money coming in from a gambling operation, a betting operation, I was looking at it from what would happen to those addicts, what would happen to those who found themselves spending their paycheck, and their last option would be the social security, the social safety net that we offer. Going to the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, where we’ve increased that budget tremendously for addiction, whether that’s for substance abuse, or whether it is for gambling, it’s still an addiction. And so for me, I was very concerned about what the cost would be for the taxpayer at the end, on the back of essentially a single business.”

“At the end of the day, they offered more incentives, and more incentives, to get approval. And I think that is where one would have to be worried about what are the enticements. What is being offered to lure a vote, to lure the will or the commitment of the people for something that is ultimately going to benefit a private business? Because at the end, it’s not going to benefit the community when we have more people who are in a worst case scenario.”

“I would ask the question, too, of who do they anticipate to be in this casino? We’ve got what, five casinos proposed throughout Virginia? Rosie’s has now got five or six different locations in Virginia. You can go to Colonial Downs, to a Rosie’s in New Kent County. And in fact, New Kent County gets a percentage of revenue from everybody, at all Rosie’s across Virginia. So it certainly benefitted them. But really it is this smaller radius to get people here. People can go to West Virginia. People can go to Maryland. They can go to National Harbor. There are options all over the place. If Norfolk approves theirs, if Danville, if Martinsville, some of these other locations approve theirs, do we need it in Richmond? Is that the future of Richmond? Do we want to become a city known for anchoring with a casino?”

“I have never compared a Ten Best list with a casino city. I would think you would go to Las Vegas if you wanted to go to a casino. I don’t know what other cities look at having a casino as putting them on the Best list. Richmond is on the Best list because we’ve got fantastic talent, we’ve got creativity, we have an innovation and a soul that is authentic, that is being driven by the youth of this city, that is always the future if you really look at what is going to make a city on a Best list. It’s looking at the long run. Why do people want to live in Richmond? The river. Access to the outdoors. Jobs. Quality housing. Are they doing that because there’s a proposed casino? We’ve seen, and we’ve seen it often, that the types of jobs that would be offered by a casino are not close to the types of jobs that Richmond is seeking to attract. We seek jobs that are higher than average paying, that are going to commit to offering benefits, that are professional, but also accessible. And I don’t see a casino as necessarily creating those opportunities.”

“I think it’s fantastic that we have a business that is being led by African Americans who are driving forward business initiatives in Black communities to try to improve the lives of the community. I would support that hands-down in any other case. I don’t see that being the case here. I would like to ask, where do the majority of the ownership interests lay? Where is the real equity of the casino going to lay? If it is truly to support the Black community of Richmond, should it not be there to build wealth? Wealth is not built by gambling. You gotta be lucky. You build wealth by being a working and endeavoring person, to then have an asset, and that asset then has value in the perception of others who think I wish I had that. That asset is something that I will now go buy or invest in, because what that person has built has value to it. How do we build more wealth? And I don’t see it, if there’s no ownership stake in this, in the actual community.”

“The truth of the matter is that Richmond has a problem. It has a problem of not being able to focus on the true issues that Richmonders are concerned about. It is a focus issue where, here’s the next bright shiny object, here’s the next bright shiny object, and we will spend two years of our lives addressing the next bright shiny object, and we forsake every other thing that Richmonders actually care about. The problem is, somebody says, Hey! Look at me! I want this! Now, is that going to solve all the problems that Richmonders have? No. But it’s going to make that person a lot of money. People will say Gosh, what a great offer that you’re bringing to Richmond. We will consider it because the dollar amounts are so big and enticing that it’s hard to say no to. Until you start peeling the layers of the onion back.”

“That is what the council and what citizens need to do to understand, to become educated on the matters that are of importance to us, to the future of Richmond, and to be informed when we go to the ballot box. Because if you don’t know what you’re voting for, don’t go vote at all. In this case, with a casino, understand what it represents. Understand what it’s going to do for the Richmonders who desperately need the attention of their government. But if we are constantly dealing with baseball stadiums, or coliseum proposals, or casino proposals, and we can never get to the core of what we need to do, we’re just being distracted. And we are losing time. We are seeing generations of Richmonders get lost in that time, because we’ve gotten distracted. I’ve seen it first hand. I called into question a lot when I was on the Finance Committee, when I was on Richmond City Council. And I can guarantee any one of the colleagues that I served with would say Parker got into it more than any of us. He understood, and he asked the critical questions. Where are those critical questions today? Who is asking them? And if you do not feel like the questions have been answered, then the only thing you can do is vote no. It’s the only thing.” 

Kenya Gibson Press Conference on Voting No to RVA Casino

Paul Goldman former Chair of Democratic Party of Virginia on Vote No RVA Casino!

Comments compiled by S. Preston Duncan
Photos by Joey Wharton

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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