Urban One expresses dissatisfaction with funding for Richmond casino


Posted on: November 3, 2023, 12:21h. 

Last updated on: November 3, 2023, 12:21h.

Urban One and Churchill Downs this week jointly contributed over $1 million to a political action committee (PAC) that is urging voters in Richmond to support their $562 million casino project. This partnership aims to gain political support from voters for the Richmond Grand Resort & Casino development.

Urban One Churchill Downs Richmond casino
Urban One founder Cathy Hughes speaks in Georgia on June 24, 2023. Hughes says her firm and Churchill Downs were forced to “waste” $10 million to allow Richmond voters to decide on a casino presentation during the 2023 election. (Image: Getty)

According to state campaign finance records, the “Richmond Wins, Vote Yes” committee has received a total of $8.42 million from Churchill Downs and Urban One. Churchill Downs contributed $4.24 million, while Urban One contributed $4.18 million. Last month, the two companies further increased their donations to the PAC with an additional $1.06 million. Churchill Downs contributed $899,269, and Urban One contributed $168,714.

So far, the two companies have spent nearly $9.5 million on the 2023 Richmond casino referendum, making it the second time in three years that the local city government is seeking support for a casino project.

Although the 2021 gaming referendum was narrowly defeated by a vote of 51-49%, Richmond city officials believe that a casino resort near the Philip Morris plant on the Southside would greatly benefit the local economy.

Casino Support, Opposition

Urban One, which was behind the unsuccessful 2021 casino push, has teamed up with Churchill Downs this time after Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, Urban One’s former development partner, was acquired by Churchill Downs.

Recent polling suggests that this year’s casino vote outcome will also be very close. In an effort to improve their chances, Urban One and Churchill Downs have allocated significant financial resources to their “Richmond Wins, Vote Yes” campaign.

These funds have been used for campaign advertisements on television, radio, billboards, yard signs, and social media. Additionally, the money was used for a recent block party and for providing free Uber vouchers to residents pledging to use them to vote.

The opposition to the Urban One and Churchill Downs casino is led by a political committee called “No Means No Casino.” The Family Foundation, a conservative Christian organization, is also working to mobilize the “no” vote against the casino.

Although “No Means No Casino” and the Family Foundation have raised less than $500,000, their grassroots campaign appears to be resonating more strongly in wealthier neighborhoods located primarily north of the downtown area.

Concerns Over Expenditure

Urban One founder Cathy Hughes expressed frustration over spending over $4.25 million of her company’s money on the 2023 casino referendum. This amount is in addition to the $2.6 million that the media firm spent on the 2021 referendum.

During an interview on 104.7FM “Praise Richmond,” which is owned by Urban One, Hughes stated that the campaign money could have been put to better use.

God has blessed me with enough to build the Richmond Grand. But $10 million is what the final [campaign] bill looks like. Such a waste. I am so mad at this opposition. Do you know how much good I could have done with $10 million? I had to pay the lawyers, the accountants, and the lobbyists… just to get the opportunity for you all to vote.

Regarding the reports of Urban One potentially being delisted, Hughes dismissed public concerns and emphasized that it would not affect the company’s business or work.

Hughes stated, “Even if they did de-list us, so what? That doesn’t affect our business. That doesn’t affect our work. That’s a status listing. Being listed on Nasdaq just says that you are publicly traded. There is no appreciable benefit from having your name on the list.”

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