Richmond Casino Backers Throw Block Party to Rally Support, Isley Brothers Headline

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Supporters hoping the Richmond casino referendum passes next month held a block party over the weekend where thousands turned out for a free concert headlined by The Isley Brothers.

The Isley Brothers headlined a free community block party in South Richmond over the weekend. The event was to rally support for the Richmond Grand Resort & Casino, which is on the ballot next month for Richmond voters in the Virginia capital. (Image: YouTube)

Richmond residents during the November 7 election will decide if a proposed $562 million project called the Richmond Grand Resort & Casino will be greenlit. Voters rejected a similar pitch during the November 2020 election by 51-49% tally.

Urban One, a Black-focused media conglomerate, is back for a second try to enter the gaming industry. The company has the support of the Richmond City Council, which picked Urban One to be its preferred casino developer should voters support a gambling enterprise.

Urban One is partnered with Churchill Downs for its 2023 bid. The partnership is seeking voter approval to build an integrated resort on 97 acres adjacent to the Philip Morris headquarters on the city’s south side. The property is just off Interstate 95.

Richmond Grand Resort & Casino envisions a luxury 250-room hotel with resort-style amenities including a spa, fitness center, an outdoor pool with cabanas, and a 55-acre park where farmers markets and community events could be held. Walking trails and pickleball courts are also in the blueprint.

As for the casino, the 90,000-square-foot gaming space would include about 1,800 slot machines, 100 live dealer table games, and a sportsbook.

Concert Sells Out

Urban One and Churchill Downs have allocated an $8 million campaign war chest and some of those funds were used to throw quite a shindig this weekend.

The block party was held at the Hickory Hill Community Center about two miles from the proposed project site. The Hickory Hill Community Center is also one of Richmond’s three early voting centers.

The Saturday event offered free food and a concert from The Isley Brothers, who made “Twist and Shout” famous for its 1961 rendition of the song that was originally recorded by the Top Notes. “Who’s That Lady?” is another iconic track from the rhythm-and-blues band.

Though the party was reserved for people aged 21 and older, the event quickly sold out before it even began. The Richmond Grand Resort & Casino website said the concert had issued its maximum allotment of 6,000 tickets prior to the party beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Churchill Downs and Urban One canvassers have also been giving out free Uber rides and meal vouchers to residents who promise that they’ll use the handouts to make it easier for them to vote early or on election day.

Faith Leaders Sign On

There is plenty of opposition to the Richmond casino project, as well as the city forcing a second referendum on voters who only in 2020 rejected a gaming initiative. But Churchill Downs and Urban One seem to be on a winning streak of late.

Along with a strong turnout for its party, the casino project last week gained the support of over a dozen faith leaders in the area. Thirteen pastors from across the city wrote a letter in support of the Richmond Grand Resort & Casino.

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.

“Richmond Grand will create 1,300 good paying, union careers with benefits, in addition to thousands of jobs during construction. The revenue generated by Richmond Grand will allow our city to better serve its residents, especially Richmond’s children, without raising taxes,” the pastors added.

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