This piece is one in a series of opinion pieces by Jon Baliles about the proposed Richmond Grand Resort and Casino. You can read his other pieces HERE.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial Board and reporters sat down this week with the casino opponents who said the casino advocates “are using what amounts to sleight of hand to woo voters” before November 7th.
(The RTD also sat down last week with the casino advocates).
“This is not well thought out,” said Paul Goldman, a Democratic strategist and Paul Goldman, founder of the No Means No Casino committee. He was joined by Allan-Charles Chipman, executive director of Initiatives of Change USA, and Ellie Pruitt, a member of Students Against Unconscionable Casino Exploitation (S.A.U.C.E.).
The article leaned into all the background of the long-running casino saga and the failure of the first referendum in 2021 in both articles. It would be more helpful for the reader and undecided voters to read more quotes from the interviews, because there were some sharply made points.
“This is not in the best interest of Richmond, this is not going to build a future of Richmond, this is exploitation,” Goldman said.
Chipman said that regardless of the legality of the second referendum, he finds it strange that Richmond Democrats would talk about Donald Trump not respecting election results, when they themselves appeared to disregard the 2021 casino vote.
“It’s going to be very interesting for these same people when they need the majority to get in, to turn out some of these same voters whose votes they literally threw into the street because they didn’t like the results that they got,” Chipman said.
He also focused on the impact of gambling addiction, particularly on low-income families: “I don’t think we have to turn to vices to do what’s virtuous,” Chipman said, “I just don’t think it’s great, especially around childcare, to say that we have to rob the parents somehow in order to pay for that.”
The No Means No Casino has received nearly $200,000 in contributions this year, compared to more than $8 million for the casino advocates in what Goldman has dubbed, “a David versus Goliath and his entire family” type of battle.
Pruitt, a student at VCU, said the recent stories about Urban One’s possible delisting from the Nasdaq index next month for repeatedly failing to file their full accounting reports are enough of a red flag that the financing may not be not solid.
“The lack of transparency really speaks for itself. Especially for referendums, when the citizens are voting directly on the legislation or the project, they deserve to know everything that they need to know about it.”
Urban One has repeatedly said their finances are fine but their submissions to the Securities and Exchange Commission report admitted there are financial adjustments that still need to be made due to financial issues arising from the first referendum. In addition, as mentioned above, the Churchill Downs’ CEO told the Associated Press that financing specifics would not be made public until after the election.
CEO Alfred Liggins III told the RTD last week that they are correcting the issue, but the Nasdaq first notified the company in April, then again in June, and again in September. With each deadline, Urban One filed for an extension and they were granted yet another extension just last week until late November — after the vote.
If the referendum fails a second time, there may not be a third try (even though Mayor Stoney has said he has not ruled that possibility out). As always, Goldman has another trick up his sleeve he is trying to push a city charter change at the Virginia General Assembly’s next session that would block a third referendum attempt in Richmond.
“I would like the city of Richmond to vote to change the charter and make it impossible to happen again,” Goldman said.
Amen. If not, we may very well see it again. And again….
Here is a great video of some anti-casino advocates (including Chipman) who stated their opposition to the referendum from 2021 and who have not changed their position that it is a bad idea. It’s worth the 90 seconds.