A week from early voting, casino causing divide in Richmond again

As city leaders and casino developers lobby hard for “yes” votes, anti-casino forces are ramping up their own campaign.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 5:28 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - One week out from the start of early voting, and the battle over a new Richmond casino is heating up. As city leaders and casino developers lobby hard for “yes” votes, anti-casino forces are ramping up their own campaign.

Anti-casino signs are starting to line up along southside neighborhoods, and the group “No Means No Casino” is gaining traction online. Some neighbors say they feel like the city did not listen to them the first time, when they said they did not want it two years ago.

“It’s not a matter of I don’t want it in my backyard. I don’t want it in anyone’s backyard,” Richmond resident Maja Bality said. “I feel like everyone I know does not want this ... but the powers that be, they’ve got the money and the connections. I just don’t want this to happen if the community doesn’t want it.”

Bality says it is just frustrating that the casino is on the ballot again. The group “No Means No Casino” echoes that message, as its statement online says, “reintroducing a rejected proposal undermines our democracy and erodes trust in local governance.”

“I’m all about progress and development, okay, but let’s do it in a manner that doesn’t bring gambling, alcohol, things that I think that are detrimental to our culture and our society,” Bality said.

This time around, the casino will have a new name, rebranded as the Richmond Grand Resort and Casino, which did not impress opposers like Bality. However, there are plenty of other Richmonders who are hoping for a different outcome in November.

“We cannot progress if we’re scared. I think we should allow the casino and deal with one obstacle at a time. But I don’t see an issue occurring as far as violence or foot traffic or any of those things, because of the location. It’s a commercial location is not much there,” Richmond resident Sasha Williams said.

Williams lives on the southside, too, and says the casino would bring good-paying, union jobs there.

“Richmond is now booming, and whether we like it or not, gambling is already here. And now we have a chance to build revenue off of that,” Williams said.

The opposing side says there is a better way to do that than with a casino.

“We have a loneliness epidemic right now in this country. And I don’t know that sitting in a dark casino gambling is gonna help that I’d rather see something else come that is going to be healthier,” Bality said.

A check on the Virginia Public Access Project website shows political activist Paul Goldman and two members of the Ukrop family contributed tens of thousands of dollars to “No Means No Casino.”