Urban One Casino Plan Headed to November Referendum in Richmond

  • Only one council member voted against the referendum
  • Urban One must pay $25m up front if voters approve the casino proposal
  • Opponents feel the casino will be bad for the community
  • The casino will be 90,000 square feet in size and include a hotel, bars, and restaurants
Hand dropping ballot into box
Richmond City Council members voted 8-1 to add a referendum on the November ballot so that residents can decide on Urban One’s casino project. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

City Council approves ballot measure

This November, voters in Richmond will decide if Virginia’s capital city should approve the Urban One casino plan to create a luxury resort along I-95. The Richmond City Council voted in approval on Monday to hold the referendum this fall. The Council members recently chose the Urban One project out of six proposals for a casino in Richmond.

located on property that Philip Morris USA owns

The vote to add the referendum was mostly positive, with only one council member – 2nd District representative Councilwoman Katherine Jordan – voting against it. If voters approve the referendum, work on the project can begin. The new casino will be located on property that Philip Morris USA owns.

Urban One casino plan moves forward

The Urban One casino plan would create an estimated 1,000 jobs. Annual tax revenues are expected to reach the $30m mark. During the hearing this week, the president and CEO of Better Housing Coalition, Greta Harris, spoke out in support of the project.

Ms Harris pointed out that she is supportive of Urban One because of the community benefits under negotiation. Direct payments would go toward the city’s school district as well as local community group partnerships.

“Some folks have been limiting this opportunity as a yes-or-no vote for a casino. I think it’s so much broader than that,” Harris said.

If voters approve the plan this November, Urban One will give the city an upfront payment of $25m.

Opposition to the project

As with any casino proposal, some are opposed to the Urban One casino plan. Several individuals were in attendance at the meeting, speaking out against it. Their primary contention was that they believe that casinos are predatory and would cause harm to the community.

called a casino an “economic development scam”

Advocacy group Richmond for All sent its director of operations to the meeting. Quinton Robbins called a casino an “economic development scam” that would take wealth from communities that are unable to support it.

Robbins stated further that casinos are a tax on the poor, and it is “shameful” to say the project will promote economic justice.

Councilman Andreas Addison is one of two members who served on the evaluation panel for the city casino project. In the meeting, Addison said that he feels the Urban One casino plan would be a catalyst for growth and redevelopment for the city.

Winning proposal

Initially, six companies submitted proposals to operate a casino in Richmond. After four proposals were removed, Urban One and The Cordish Companies were the final two potential operators on the table.

The Maryland-based broadcasting company beat out The Cordish Companies in late May as Council members chose Urban One’s 90,000-square-foot casino plan. Urban One will offer gaming and a sportsbook, hotel, theater, bars, and restaurants.

Because Urban One is not a gambling company, it has teamed up with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment on the project. Peninsula has experience in the gambling industry as the operator of the Colonial Downs Racetrack in Virginia and the chain of Rosie’s Gaming Emporium facilities.

If the referendum ends up in Urban One’s favor, the company must pay Richmond the $25m fee within 30 days of certification. The company will be responsible for paying a 3% gambling revenue tax, but if the casino can open by December 31, 2023, Urban One gets the tax rate lowered to 1.875% for one year.

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