The ongoing debate over whether to build and operate new casinos in Virginia has failed to take the commonwealth’s Black residents and their economic opportunities into consideration, African American business leaders say.
In particular, there appears to have been no opportunity for Black people and Black-owned businesses in Virginia to participate in the economic development aspect of the ambitious proposed legislation that would pave the way for the new casinos to open in five cities where there are sizeable Black populations — Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond.
According to the Bristol Herald Courier, “the five proposed casinos would generate nearly $1 billion in combined annual net gaming revenue for operators and more than $260 million annually in state gaming tax” and “would create more than 7,000 jobs.” However, there has been a failure to address how the local Black population would be considered when it came to those jobs or the opportunities in casino management, construction, service contracts or other investment ventures.
That omission is unacceptable, the top leadership of Urban One Inc., a Black-owned business that operates media organizations across the country as well as in Virginia, said.
“Economic opportunity is the driver for a better way of life for African Americans. Casinos in Virginia’s Black Communities will create Billions of dollars in value from jobs, construction, service contracts and Investment profits. The African American community deserves the right to participate in the value creation generated from its own revenues! This opportunity should not just go to Indian Tribes and out of state billionaires,” Cathy Hughes, Urban One’s founder, and Alfred Liggins, Urban One’s CEO, said in a statement.
Thus far, the only minority participation in the Virginia casinos process has been that of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe which, by one state estimation, has about 200 members. That population stood in stark contrast to the number of Black people in Virginia (20 percent of the state’s more than 3.5 million residents). It also paled in comparison to the Black populations of each of the five cities where the casinos have been planned.
Hughes and Liggins urged Virginia’s Black residents and eligible Black-owned businesses who are missing out on what could be a lucrative economic opportunity to contact their members of the General Assembly and other state representatives to voice complaints about what they described as an unfair process.
“Email or call your state legislators and the Governors office to say that ‘Black economic inclusion in Virginia Casinos matters!’, Hughes and Liggins added in their statement.
Members of the Virginia General Assembly can be found by clicking here. The contact information for the office of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam can be found by clicking here.