Richmond Casino Opposition Injects Racial Tensions Into Debate

Posted on: March 30, 2021, 11:04h. 

Last updated on: July 5, 2021, 08:36h.

Residents in Richmond, Va., will decide next November whether to authorize a casino resort in the capital city. Some say a group opposed to allowing the gaming property to be located in a more affluent area have injected racial undertones into the discussion.

Richmond casino Virginia racism
A flyer campaigning against a Richmond casino in Scott’s Addition is seen. The material has caused backlash from some who believe it presents a racist message. (Image: Twitter)

The Cordish Companies is one of the three finalists selected by the City of Richmond for further consideration for the lone potential gaming license. The casino operator has proposed building a $600 million resort on Arthur Ashe Boulevard in the historic Scott’s Addition neighborhood.

Opposition has emerged urging area residents to reject the Cordish development, which would be known as Live! Casino & Hotel Richmond. Flyers have been posted around town warning of the possible negative repercussions of allowing a casino in the neighborhood. 

NO! We say no to a casino on Arthur Ashe Boulevard! More traffic. Higher crime. Lower quality of life for us. Tell them to build it over there,” read the flyer, which was also shared on social media. 

There was no immediate word on who is behind the campaign, nor where “over there” means. But its messaging quickly generated backlash from some in the community who were offended by what they believed was a racial undertone.

Richmond’s History

Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Some continue to celebrate that part of the city’s past, while others want to strip the town of the monuments and relics commemorating those days.

In the wake of the protests that followed the death of George Floyd last year, numerous monuments on Monument Avenue were removed, including the J.E.B. Stuart Monument, Jefferson Davis Memorial, Stonewall Jackson Monument, and Matthew Fontaine Maury Monument. Only the Robert E. Lee Monument remains.

Richmond was one of five cities that qualified under 2020 legislation to allow city residents to decide if they want to bring in a casino in order to spark economic development. While there are many poor areas of Richmond, there are also wealthy neighborhoods. 

The flyer opposing the casino in Scott’s Addition suggests that the casino be built in a poor area, not theirs. 

We’re building a narrative of Richmond as a progressive city, moving past the painful history of the Confederacy, taking down monuments and building equity in our policies. Everyone is on this wave of thinking, and then here we go with this,” Amy Wentz, a former City Council member, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. 

“People don’t value our neighborhoods equally,” she said. 

Neighborhood Data

According to the most recently available statistics from Richmond, 68 percent of Richmond’s 2nd District, where Cordish wants to build, are white residents. Just 19 percent are Black. 

The two other remaining casino bids are a $650 million proposal from Bally’s Corporation and a $517 million plan from Urban One and Colonial Downs. 

Sixty-five percent of Richmond’s 4th District, which Bally’s is targeting for its casino, are white people. Less than 29 percent are Blacks. However, Urban One is pursuing Richmond’s 8th District, which is nearly 70 percent Black.