Richmond Casino Poll Reveals Divided Public Opinion

Posted on: November 1, 2023, 10:43h.

Last updated on: November 1, 2023, 01:08h.

New polling on the upcoming Richmond casino referendum indicates uncertainty regarding the outcome.

Richmond casino Virginia Urban One Churchill
A woman who supports the Richmond casino question on the November 7 ballot holds up a sign. New polling suggests the electorate in the Virginia capital is split on the casino pitched by Urban One and Churchill Downs. (Image: WHRO)

Early voting is underway in Richmond, Virginia for the proposed $562 million casino project presented by Urban One, Inc. and Churchill Downs, Inc. As Richmonders cast their ballots, the fate of whether Richmond will become a casino host destination hangs in the balance.

A recent poll conducted by national polling outlet co/efficient provides insight into the split electorate’s opinion on the casino. Out of over 900 likely voters in Richmond, 43% expressed they would “definitely vote no” on the casino question, while 39% stated they would “definitely vote yes.”

The poll also revealed that slightly more opponents than supporters of the casino voiced their opinions.

Richmonders are being asked to vote on the following ballot question:

“Shall casino gaming be permitted at a casino gaming establishment in the City of Richmond, Virginia, at 2001 Walmsley Boulevard and 4700 Trenton Avenue, Virginia, 23234, as may be approved by the Virginia Lottery Board?”

Critical Vote

If authorized, the Richmond casino would bring significant benefits to the capital metro area, according to Urban One and Churchill Downs officials. The project, named Richmond Grand Resort & Casino, would create 1,300 jobs, with most offering union positions and an average annual compensation of $55K in pay and benefits. Additionally, it is estimated that the city would receive $30 million annually in local taxes.

The revenue generated from the casino would be largely allocated to supporting early childhood programs, as indicated by Richmond City Council and Mayor Levar Stoney (D).

However, opponents of the Richmond casino argue against holding a second vote on the matter, claiming it goes against the democratic process. Concerns have also been raised about the potential negative impact of a casino on Richmond’s Southside, particularly within the Black communities, which are deemed more vulnerable to gambling disorders according to behavioral health experts.

Despite the opposition, Mayor Stoney and the Richmond City Council emphasize the economic investment and well-paying jobs that the casino would bring to the area.

Richmond Fifth and Final City

In 2020, Virginia lawmakers passed legislation allowing five cities, which met certain economic hardship criteria, to consider a casino as a means to stimulate their local economies. Four of these cities, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Danville, held referendums that resulted in locals supporting the establishment of commercial casinos.

Although Richmond received the most interest from casino companies, its gaming referendum was postponed to 2021 to allow for a competitive bidding process. In the end, Urban One was selected by the city government, despite the media conglomerate’s lack of experience in the casino industry. Urban One later partnered with Churchill Downs after acquiring most of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment’s assets for $2.5 billion.

During the 2021 vote, affluent neighborhoods north of the James River largely opposed the casino, while areas south of the city showed more support for the Urban One proposal.

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