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One Casino and Resort lost its bid during last month’s election to be Virginia‘s fifth and final retail casino. Exactly 1,493 votes against the Richmond ballot measure separated the proposed “nation’s only Black-owned casino” from its developers’ $563 million construction plans. Perhaps because of that narrow loss, project proponents are reportedly considering another Richmond ballot measure that could see the casino approved.
On Dec. 2, the Richmond Times-Dispatch first reported that Richmond City Councilwoman Reva Trammell was circulating a petition to put One Casino on an upcoming ballot. Trammell didn’t return Online Poker Report‘s request for comment yesterday.
Also in that article, the newspaper recounted tales from voters saying they received text messages. These linked to an online survey, which asked if they voted for the casino. On Dec. 11, WRIC reported that the survey also wanted to know “how they voted up and down the ballot.” WRIC noted that online survey no longer existed as of Dec. 11, and no one answered the TV news channel’s texts or calls to the SMS survey sender.
OPR asked about the survey and ballot measure plans and received this response yesterday from the casino project’s former spokesman, Mark B. Hubbard:
“I have forwarded your inquiry to Urban One. They have taken their communications back in-house since the election.”
Election Day was on Nov. 2. Until that date, Hubbard – who is primarily the senior vice president of advocacy for McGuireWoods Consulting in Richmond – was working on the project for One Casino’s operator, RVA Entertainment Holdings. RVA is a subsidiary of Urban One, a media company focused on Black culture. It touted its proposal as America’s first casino under Black ownership.
The OneCasinoResort.com site RVA used to inform Richmond residents about the proposed casino still lists Hubbard as the spokesman.
Richmond voters overwhelmingly chose Democrats on Nov. 2.
Statewide, on the other hand, Virginians picked Republicans in what many watchers termed a “stunning” election. News outlets ranging from the New Yorker to the Deseret News said the campaign had become a culture war. Republican candidates focused on education topics that included “critical race theory” and transgender student access to school restrooms.
As a Politico writer opined on Nov. 3 in a largely Virginia-centric article:
“The combustible issue of race in America and how to teach about it has quickly become the Republican Party’s issue of choice. And Democrats face a significant challenge in pushing back.”
Prior to Nov. 2, the messaging from One Casino and its proponents was pride in being a Black-owned, Black-friendly retail casino.
Because the survey asked recipients “how they voted up and down the ballot,” Urban One may be trying to determine if the vote failed for partisan reasons. (If Urban One is the source of the survey.)
According to the official results from the Virginia Department of Elections, exactly 78,993 Richmond voters answered this “Casino Gaming” question:
“Shall casino gaming be permitted at a casino gaming establishment in the City of Richmond, Virginia, at 2001 Walmsley Boulevard and 4700 Trenton Avenue, Richmond, Virginia 23234 as may be approved by the Virginia Lottery Board?  Yes  No”
On Election Day, voters defeated that measure, with 50.95% or 40,243 deciding “no.” Conversely, 49.05% of voters or 38,750 voted in the affirmative. There’s no way of knowing how votes for governor correlated with answers to the casino question, however. In fact, 1,149 of those who cast a vote for the governor didn’t answer the casino question at all.
Among the 80,142 Richmond voters who decided on the governor’s race, 77.27% – or 61,929 – picked Democrat Terry R. McAuliffe.
Virginia’s new governor is Republican Glenn A. Youngkin, who received nearly 1.7 million votes – winning the race with approval from 50.57% of the state’s electors.
OPR sister site PlayVirginia‘s reporting on Dec. 10 mentioned a possible reformulated marketing campaign for a new ballot measure. The new strategy could emphasize the revenue the casino would bring to Richmond.
However, the Politico article says that Democrats’ focus on larger issues is a losing strategy in culture war situations.
“One of [Republicans’] most powerful political assets is alive and well: the power of cultural issues over policies.”
Considering Richmond votes Democratic, it’s possible that dropping some of that talk in favor of the direct benefits to residents might be how the city ultimately gets its casino.