Richmond casino referendum: Urban ONE rolls the dice, but the race is too close to be announced



RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The Richmond casino issue has dominated local conversation this year, with more than $ 1 million invested in advertising.

Now, with all the reports of physical speakers, it looks like Richmond is on the verge of narrowly dismissing the ONE Casino + Resort, with a margin of just under 3%.

At 12:11 am, 37,599 Richmond residents voted in favor of the proposal, while 39,824 voted against.

All that remains is to count the outstanding postal ballots – the postmark being taken as proof before November 2 – and the provisional ballots.

Data from the Virginia Public Access Project indicates that there are currently 2,373 mail-in ballots outstanding.

According to the chairman of the electoral board James Nachman, 550 provisional ballots still have to be counted – these are ballots for which the electoral board must verify the eligibility of the voter.

So, with a total of 2,923 outstanding ballots (postal and provisional votes combined), it seems unlikely that the pending votes could tip the results, but at the end of election night, the race remains too tight to be announced.

How people voted in Richmond precinct

Background

The Richmond Casino Referendum was the most publicized local race this year, drawing intense publicity from project sponsor Urban ONE and rejection from local activists.

The referendum was the last of five referendums held in independent towns in Virginia. In November 2020, the General Assembly approved the casino’s development plans, pending approval from local voters.

Four of the five cities – Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth and Norfolk – approved their own projects earlier this year.

Richmond City Council selected the Urban ONE proposal – billed as ONE Casino + Resort – from a list of three offers. The project has since garnered high-level support from City Council members Reverend Al Sharpton and Mayor Levar Stoney.

Urban ONE is a media company with radio stations in major cities on the East Coast, as well as a minority stake in MGM National Harbor Casino in Maryland. If you’ve listened to the local station KISS FM, you may have heard advertisements promoting the casino, alongside billboards, signage, and newspaper advertisements.

But opposition has also shown up locally, with community activists questioning whether the promised economic benefits would materialize and warning of a potential increase in problem gambling.

“Research actually shows that casinos can also reduce property values ​​by up to 15% of their surroundings,” community activist Allan-Charles Chipman said on an episode of Race Capitol, a local radio show.

VPAP reports that the pro-casino PAC “Vote Yes Richmond Wins!” Which has received most of its support from entities associated with Urban ONE, has spent $ 1,103,892 to support the proposal as of October 21.

The opposition group “Vote NO on RVA Casino” spent $ 61,120 as of October 20.


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