Proposed Casino Backers Bring in Isley Brothers for Promo Concert Ahead of Richmond, VA., Referendum Vote
Developers behind the proposed Richmond Grand Resort and Casino have pulled out all the stops to rally support for the project over the weekend. Urban One and Churchill Downs backed a free concert in Richmond, VA., on Saturday, headlined by funk and soul legends The Isley Brothers (pictured).
The concert at Hickory Hill Community Center, which is a voting location, comes ahead of the November 7 referendum on the plans for the latest addition to the growing list of Virginia casino venues.
The event is part of a campaign that has seen more than $8 million spent in an effort to appeal to voters. That’s after 2022’s casino plan was narrowly rejected by a 2% margin.
The $500 million casino resort has divided opinion in Virginia’s capital, with many residents for and against the plans. As well as the headline act from Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and 13-times platinum record-selling The Isley Brothers, the event also gave out food vouchers and even free Uber rides to help people get to their local voting stations.
Opinions Still Divided
The block party and concert were free to attend, with the event featuring free food and music in the fields behind and next to the precinct. More than 6,000 people attended the show, raising questions over whether early voting operations would be impacted.
Richmond Grand spokesperson Michael Kelly assured that the event had been planned meticulously to ensure that those coming to cast their ballot could do so easily and quickly.
The event drew mixed reactions from the local public. Some, like Richmond resident Melinda Davis, were excited about the prospect of a new casino that could bring more than 1,000 jobs alongside entertainment.
“Oh yeah, I can’t wait! I might be one of the first ones there,” Davis told local news outlet WTVR.
“We need jobs. Everybody out here ain’t got no work.”
Others, however, were skeptical of the promises made by the developers behind the project.
“I want to be a resident in a city that chooses to invest in our residents, not a city that gambles on our residents,” said Jennifer Yox.
“I personally don’t think it should take $8 million to convince someone that the thing you’re selling is actually a good idea.”
Casino Details Released
The proposed Richmond Grand Resort and Casino is a joint venture of Churchill Downs and Urban One.
Details of the development were released early in September. If built, it will include a 250-room hotel, a 3,000-seat concert venue, and a modern gaming floor with hundreds of slots and table games, plus a new sports betting venue for fans of Virginia retail sportsbooks.
The resort will also feature a 55-acre public park in Southside, with bike paths, walking trails, pickleball courts, and facilities for community events, sports, and family activities.
The resort, casino, and entertainment complex are projected to create at least 1,300 well-paying jobs, with an average annual compensation of $55,000, including benefits.
It is also expected to generate at least $30 million in annual tax revenue for the City of Richmond. The project will not use any public funds, incentives, or tax breaks.
“Richmonders recognize that this project is an opportunity for Richmond to invest in itself – an opportunity to have generational economic impact and use the $30 million generated every year towards creating a remarkable future with stronger schools and better services for their children, new opportunities for entrepreneurs, and hundreds of new jobs for their community,”said Cath Hughes of Urban One.
“When Richmond votes yes, we say yes to good jobs, stronger schools and services, and the opportunity to invest in Richmonders.”
Developers Get Faith Leaders Backing
The casino project aims to have a positive impact on the community, with plans to invest in Richmond’s children by generating $30 million in annual revenue to invest in schools and services centered around Richmond’s youth.
Additionally, the project will contribute $16 million over 10 years to Richmond nonprofits and charities.
Developers also recently gained the signatures of a dozen faith leaders from the local community, who came out in support of the casino resort. They wrote and signed an open letter to their community ahead of next week’s vote.
“We believe the proposed Richmond Grand will give more Richmonders an opportunity for a great job, deliver real investment in communities that are too often forgotten, and help create a stronger, safer city,” the letter read.
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