Few casino markets are as interesting as Virginia over the past year as drama over which cities would get casinos reached a fever pitch.
However, the storm seems to have calmed in the wake of a favorable court decision that allowed Richmond to have a second referendum vote on a casino after voters nixed a casino two years ago.
This week, representatives from the casino’s developers, Urban One and Churchill Downs (CDI), talked with Richmond residents about Richmond Grand Resort & Casino during a community meeting.
Casino developers focus on informing the public before a vote
In an interview with ABC 8 News, Urban One CEO Alfred Liggins said the public relations approach is different this time. He felt that Richmond voters didn’t have the information they needed to make a confident decision about a casino during the 2021 referendum, saying:
“The new approach is to touch as many people as possible with the most information so people can be informed about what this project actually is.”
One topic touched on during the community meeting was pay. The base pay for casino employees will be $18 to $20 an hour, 8 News reported. Churchill Downs CEO William Carstanjen said the average salary will be around $55,000.
The casino project will also bring a $26.5 million investment in the city, around 1,300 jobs, and around $30 million in annual tax revenue.
Churchill Downs, Urban One pushing hard ahead of referendum vote
This week’s community meeting came just in time for early voting, which kicks off today.
Churchill Downs and Urban One still have more than a month before Voting Day to convince Richmond residents the new casino will benefit the city. The next community meeting will take place on Sept. 28.
Liggins said the focus of future meetings is to give residents an open forum to ask questions and discuss issues. However, developers will use the time to pitch the benefits of another Virginia casino. He told 8 News:
“We want [the public] to have an opportunity to ask us questions [and address] concerns, issues. But also to really be specific and granular about the amenities related to this resort-casino project and why it’s good for all of Richmond.”
Richmond is the only city authorized to have a casino but doesn’t
Virginia law allows commercial casinos in five cities, provided those cities’ voters approve a casino via a referendum.
Voters in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth approved casinos. Bristol has a Hard Rock and Danville has a Caesars. Both are temporary casinos until construction on permanent properties is complete.
Richmond is on the outside looking in. Developers could not convince voters of the casino’s benefits in 2021. That failure led leaders in nearby Petersburg to push lawmakers to allow it to vote on a casino since Richmond’s vote failed.
However, Petersburg’s hopes were dashed when the Senate shot down a bill to vote on a casino.