Casino gets official approval from Richmond City Council, according to the Richmond Free Press.
Free press: The city of Richmond is getting closer to realizing its ambition of establishing a casino in the South Side.
The proposed ONE Casino + Resort has cleared two additional barriers and is on pace to appear on the Nov. 2 ballot, where it would seek municipal voters’ approval.
City Council unanimously approved agreements between City Hall and the selected operator, RVA Entertainment Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Black media behemoth Urban One, which is seeking to open its first gambling operation at Walmsley Boulevard and Commerce Road at the Bells Road interchange with Interstate 95, on Monday night, clearing one hurdle.
The agreements allow for the construction of the gambling-entertainment-hotel project, guaranteeing the city at least $29 million in annual revenue, approximately 1,000 full-time jobs with first priority given to local residents, and a start date of October 2024.
The casino vote came during City Council’s final meeting before the August recess, during which the council also passed a symbolic resolution declaring racism a public health crisis in the city, rezoned a stretch of West Broad Street for 12-story, mixed-use buildings, and awarded a $100,000 grant to Virginia Union University to create a mentoring program in Gilpin Court for young people under a court order.
Separately, the Virginia Lottery, the state’s casino regulator, has completed its preliminary examination of the casino plan and given City Hall the green light to request that the Richmond Circuit Court place the issue on the ballot, according to the Free Press.
Officials have stated that the request will be presented before the court in the coming weeks.
If Richmond voters decisively approve the casino, as Mayor Levar M. Stoney expects, the Lottery would have a year to conduct a thorough investigation before determining whether to give the requisite casino license.
During the discussion, Councilwoman Reva Trammell, whose 8th District contains the proposed casino and resort site, lauded the potential benefits of the project, which would be one of the largest south of the James River.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city as a whole, not just for the South Side and the 8th District,” Ms. Trammell said.
Others, such as dermatologist Dr. Pamela Royal, whose family is listed as an investor in RVA Entertainment Holdings by Urban One, have shown enthusiasm for the initiative.
Not everyone is looking forward to it. According to Quinton Robbins of the advocacy group Richmond for All, a survey of locals residing west of the project indicated that 45 percent oppose the casino and a large percentage are undecided.
Richmond for All is one of the organizations opposed to any casino development, claiming that it will take money from low-income citizens, provide only low-wage employment, and contribute little to the city’s prosperity.
It remains to be seen whether the opposition is significant. So far, no evidence of a well-funded effort has emerged.
If the casino is approved by a majority of voters in the November referendum, it will kick off the first stages of a project that City Hall is portraying as a moneymaker for Richmond.
According to municipal filings, RVA Entertainment and its parent company, Urban One, are planning a $560 million investment, with around $420 million going toward design and construction and the remainder going toward other project costs, such as an upfront payment to the city. According to the agreements, the company must pay union salaries for construction, employ union members in 40% of the project, and try to have 40% of the construction done by Black, Latino, and other minority-owned businesses.
RVA Entertainment would be required to pay the city a non-refundable $26.5 million upfront deposit even before receiving a license under the agreements. RVA Entertainment would also have to finalize the purchase of its preferred site from the present owner, tobacco giant Altria and its cigarette branch, Philip Morris USA, situated in Henrico County.
If the Lottery accepts the license, the corporation must also remove Philip Morris USA’s previous operating center from the property to make way for the casino and a 250-room hotel.
The business plans to start building on the casino in 2023, with an opening in 22 months assuming Lottery permission. The agreement incentivizes the company to execute the job in a shorter amount of time. The corporation would also have to launch the 250-room hotel to the public by October 2025.
The agreements also compel the corporation to pay an additional $1 million to the city in order to delay the opening date, which was originally scheduled for December 2023. The $1 million is in addition to the $25.5 million the corporation had committed to pay the city previously.
In other business, the administration claims that the City Council’s backing of Mayor Stoney’s resolution declaring racism a public health concern provides the framework for policy reforms and budgetary investments to enhance fairness in the city.