Urban One and Churchill Downs CEOs comment on Richmond casino proposal

October 20, 2023
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The companies have launched an $8m campaign for the referendum where Richmond may vote on a new casino and compared the regulated casino project to the previously banned skill games market.

Richmond, Virginia will vote on a long-awaited referendum in November that would determine whether the city will build a casino development originally approved in 2021. Virginia law permits gambling in five cities and has opened casinos in Bristol, Portsmouth and Danville, with pending Norfolk and Reston casinos as well.

A second referendum was granted in 2022 and In May this year, the $562m project, One Casino + Resort, was reintroduced by partners Urban One and Churchill Downs. In June, the city approved the reconsideration.

In August, however, a Circuit Court Judge suspended the vote on this referendum due to a local nonprofit organization’s request for extra time. Richmond Lodge No. 1 of the Good Lions motioned to block the casino project stating that it violated the State Constitution by ignoring the public bidding process.

September led to Richmond city officials promising that the annual tax revenue from the proposed casino would go to affordable and accessible childcare, as well as to the re-brand of the project from One Casino + Resort to Richmond Grand Resort& Casino.

This week, the Richmond casino referendum has reached the federal court system. According to local reports, however, CEO Alfred Liggins III of Urban One and CEO Bill Carstanjen of Churchill Downs have now publicly addressed the concerns of the project’s impact on the city.

Liggins said, “People say that the South Side needs grocery stores, and they need other amenities. Well, grocery stores come into communities where there’s income to be able to support commerce.

“This is going to create an economic hub that is going to create jobs. If we don’t build this there, nothing else is going to get built there.”

Urban One and Churchill Downs have created a local referendum campaign worth $8m. This campaign will also represent local union, Unite Here, has also offered free Uber rides to South Side voters and a free meal on-site after each ballot is cast.

Carstanjen, however, spoke of the difficult casino project regulation process by the contrasting lack of opposition to skill games in the state. He said, “I’ve been wondering where that (concern) has been in this city with all these gray games. They are flat-out illegal and they’re on every corner.”

Skill games were all but banned in the state in 2020, but continue to operate. Small business owners in the state have also launched a coalition in support of them. The Virginia Supreme Court reinstated the ban last week.

Carstanjen continued advocating for a regulated casino by bringing up the downfalls of locations skill games operate, “That is where you see no programs, no tax revenue, no jobs, no reporting, no information whatsoever about what is going on and what’s happening in those facilities.”

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