A new survey is seeking feedback from people living in Virginia’s capital city to help Richmond decide the operator and location for the last of five planned gaming resorts in the commonwealth. The casinos are expected to bring lucrative economic development in cities with sizeable Black populations.
The online survey, which can be found by clicking on BlackCasinoRVA.com, follows criticism from African American business leaders that they and local residents have been virtually excluded from plans for casinos in Virginia.
As part of the process to get a casino referendum on the ballot in 2021, the survey encourages residents and business owners in Richmond to answer 11 key questions “on what the City should look for in an operator and site for a resort casino.” The survey will only be available through Dec. 14.
The survey comes at the end of a year that has seen an unprecedented level of social justice upheaval and an overall racial reckoning.
However, while Virginia plans to open five casinos in largely Black communities, four of them have already been approved without any African American participation to date. Richmond is the last opportunity for Black residents to voice their opinions on the matter.
The other cities where casino resorts are expected to be built include Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth. To date, there has been no opportunity for Black people and Black-owned businesses in Virginia to participate in the economic development aspect of the ambitious legislation that residents will ultimately vote on.
Early estimates projected a cash windfall of nearly $1 billion in annual revenue from the casinos and the generation of more than $260 million from taxes, all while creating thousands of new jobs. But there are still questions about 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.
Urban One Inc., a Black-owned business that operates media organizations across the country and is a licensed casino operator in the state of Maryland, said Virginia must consider diversity and inclusion when it comes to key decisions surrounding plans for its casinos. The company has registered its interest in proposing a casino development in Richmond.
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe, which is also competing for the casino, is being bankrolled by Tennessee billionaire Jon Yarbrough. By one state estimation, the Pawmunky Indian Tribe 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 in each of the five cities where the casinos have been planned.
The Colonial Downs Group also wants to be considered for the casino. But Urban One is the only minority-owned entity that has expressed interest.
“Economic opportunity is the driver for a better way of life for African Americans,” Cathy Hughes, Urban One’s founder, said in a statement. “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.”
Urban One’s CEO Alfred Liggins stressed the importance of seizing the moment.
“Right now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the advancement of Black-led economic development in the city of Richmond. This new survey is asking for the input of its citizens, giving Black residents the chance to speak up and be heard and demand inclusion in the biggest economic development opportunity in city history,” he said. “The only certain path to more Black jobs and more Black contracts is through Black ownership in the Richmond casino. We should not be left out!”
The survey can be taken by clicking on BlackCasinoRVA.com.