Standing in the previous capital of the Confederacy on an industrial site he wants to develop into the country’s only Black-owned casino, Alfred C. Liggins III does not discuss income or market share. He discusses race and equity.
” We thought we were in the business of catering to the African American neighborhood,” he said. “A big part of lifting a neighborhood. is about company chances. We saw video gaming for numerous, several years as one of those opportunities.”
Liggins, the CEO of Silver Spring-based media giant Urban One, plans to build One Casino and Resort. It will have a 250-room hotel, a live theater, 1,800 slot machines, and 100 table games off Interstate 95 in Richmond’s long-neglected, bulk- Black Southside. In November, the city will hold a meeting on the project after Urban One beat other contenders to bring video gaming to River City.
Gaming and equity make odd bedfellows. Though gambling establishments have proved financial boons to some communities, including Native American people, others that accepted video gaming look cautionary tales. With above-average hardship rates, Baltimore, Atlantic City, N.J., and Hammond, Ind., for instance, are not known for their robust economies.
Urban One has responded to critics by mentioning the benefits it says it will give Richmond: $525 million in new tax income, 1,300 jobs paying a minimum of $15 per hour, and a surplus of 3.7 million tourists each year to a city of simply 227,000. Liggins has circulated mailers emblazoned with stats like these and paid for signboards that read “Richmond Wins, Buy Southside.”
One Casino needs to endure a referendum initially– one that has divided Richmond in the weeks ahead of November’s vote. Even as some community activists and political prospects hailed the casino as the savior of Southside– a rundown strip of trailer parks and weekly-rate motels mainly bereft of a supermarket and sit-down dining establishments– others denounce the task. With lawn signs reading: “No Casinos! Keep Richmond Beautiful.”
For some, time can’t heal the wounds caused on South Richmond by systemic racism with roulette.
Quinton Robbins, the director of the Virginia liberal activist group Richmond for All, is campaigning against One Gambling establishment, said casino projects use “the flash of easy income” but bring low-quality tasks and gentrification to communities whose existing citizens are among the city’s neediest.
” It’s not financial justice to extract wealth from a community,” he said. “This has to do with the crossroads of white supremacy and poverty.”
Liggins, remembering when it was not likely to become a gambling establishment mogul, disagreed with this critique.
” I do not know if this person knows what it’s like to be bad,” he said.
Liggins’s mother– Cathy Hughes, the business creator who progressed into Urban One– brought him when she was 17. Even after she established a service that would end up being a $300 million leviathan, she was a single mom who, for some time, lived with her son at one of the radio stations in Northwest Washington. They could not pay for a place of their own.
By maturing with less, it shaped Liggins’s thinking about video gaming as an organizing opportunity. He does not think gambling establishments prey on flawed individuals. Poor people can’t afford to sit at blackjack tables, he said– and if they spend cash on games of chance that stats guarantee they will lose in the long run, that’s their option.
Betting is fun, and individuals deserve to do it, he stated, even individuals who aren’t White.
” They’re presuming Black and Brown individuals do not have the sort of intellectual capability and free choice to manage their desires for home entertainment, which I sort of find offending,” Liggins stated of the job’s critics.
Richmond’s geography and the inequities it cultivated set the stage for this battle.
” Whatever’s about race in Richmond,” stated Benjamin Campbell, a retired pastor and the author of the book “Richmond’s Unhealed History.”
According to Campbell, Richmond’s development was mainly on the north side of the James River as the south side, consisting of 100 acres owned by cigarette giant Philip Morris that Urban One plans to purchase for the casino, was delegated agriculture and market.
However, in a race to keep the city White after desegregation in the early 1970s, Richmond annexed land south of the James. In the midst of subsequent “White flight,” Southside became Richmond’s “most deprived and depleted financial part,” Campbell stated.
This extreme deprivation made Southside an appealing spot for a gambling establishment. After the state legislature passed legislation last year allowing referendum-approved video gaming in Richmond, wealthier areas on the Northside fought off proposals.
Liggins, who lives near the Washington National Cathedral in Northwest D.C., comprehended their motivation.
” Nobody desires it in their yard,” he said. “I don’t want it in my yard.”
Some in Southside want One Casino.
Richmond City board member Reva Trammell has represented Richmond’s 8th District given that 1998. She said that hers remained after annexation, driving through the area Wednesday, unlike many other White households.
” When we were adjoined into the city, we got nothing,” she said. My mommy and dad were not going to move. My mama said, ‘I’m remaining right here.'”.
Exploring blocks of single-family houses– many of them listing or requiring paint– abutting the Philip Morris factory, Trammell thrummed with enthusiasm for One Gambling establishment. The resort would bring jobs, she stated. Tax revenue. Drain infrastructure for streets that consistently flood throughout thunderstorms. Live music. Walkways.
” Activity, activity, activity,” she stated.
Trammell flagged down constituents, getting their opinions. The manager of a gas station on Jefferson Davis Highway, recently re-named “Richmond Highway,” was for the gambling establishment. Turning on to a side road, Trammell abruptly pulled over and leaped out of the vehicle to hug a male trimming his yard ahead of a thunderstorm.
” That man taught me how to play basketball.” she stated. The man, who said his kid spent a lot of time in traffic traveling to the MGM casino at National Harbor, likewise favored One Gambling establishment.
Leonard Sledge, director of Richmond’s department of financial advancement, was there for the ride. He gave a less emotional argument for the gambling establishment: $170 million in tax revenue five years after it opens.
” We simply wish to make the city much better,” he stated.
Even years after Native American people and cities such as Detroit overthrew the monopoly on video gaming as soon as Atlantic City and Las Vegas enjoyed it, casinos make neighborhoods better.
Emilia Simeonova, an associate teacher at the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Service who has studied Native American gambling establishments, stated video gaming projects had benefited some tribes because earnings are directed to people members or since some tasks are “in the boonies” without other industries. Casinos may not bring the same advantages to cities.
” No one quite knows,” she stated. “I don’t believe there is any severe and well-regarded research study in economics that shows gambling establishments are excellent. There’s no conclusive evidence in either instruction.”.
Sitting in a coffee house a few miles from One Casino’s suggested site, Richard Walker, who runs an outreach program for previously incarcerated individuals, said the concept that a casino could benefit Southside was “a lie from the depths of hell.”.
Walker, a New Jersey local who operated in an Atlantic City gambling establishment, stated the One job would benefit from “low-income community exploitation,” increasing traffic and draining pipes consumers from other Richmond businesses. As a person who served jail time, Walker doubted those with criminal records would access casino tasks.
” I’ll bet my last single dollar on it,” he said.
On the other hand, in Richmond, some are already video gaming.
On Wednesday, Patricia Gaines sat with three people in the off-track betting location of Rosie’s Video gaming Emporium several miles from the proposed One site. Here, since 2019, gamblers could put off-track bets and play slot machines as part of legislation developed to support the state’s horse-racing industry.
Gaines, who had money on the No. 3 horse in a racing simulcast from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., stated she moved to Richmond after retiring as a legal secretary 21 years back. Another canine– Connie, a Yorkie– passed away at 5 p.m. on April 30 of last year after a battle with kidney failure, she stated.
Gaines stated she would run about even in her horse-playing career and vote for One Casino in the coming referendum. She likes gaming. Casino challenges shouldn’t keep others from doing what they want.
” They do not need to bet,” she stated. “They can stay home.”.