Virginia Native Missy Elliott Urges Richmond Voters to Back $565M Casino Ballot Question

Virginia polls open tomorrow, Nov. 2, at 6 am ET. Along with deciding the state’s next governor, voters in Richmond will determine the outcome of a $565 million casino resort that has been proposed for south of the capital city, adjacent to the Philip Morris tobacco plant.

Richmond Virginia casino Missy Elliott
Richmond Virginia casino Missy Elliott
The Philip Morris manufacturing plant in Richmond, seen here in an archival photograph, has led to the Virginia city being informally known as Cigarette City, USA. Many in the region hope to bring another so-called “sin stock” industry to town with a casino. (Image: Philip Morris USA)

In the final weeks leading up to Election Day, advocates on both sides of the gambling question have labored to convince Richmonders which way to vote. The biggest celebrity endorsement came yesterday when four-time Grammy winner and Virginia native Missy Elliott took to social media to express her hopes that a commercial gambling and entertainment destination is allowed to come to Richmond.

Elliott was born at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth and spent her childhood in the Hampton Roads metro.

“Richmond, Virginia, I’ll need y’all to make sure you vote ‘yes’ for ONE Casino,” the singer-songwriter and rapper told her nearly seven million followers on Twitter. “This is historic. A Black-owned casino resort. I’m all-in!”

Elliott went on to hype the economic benefits such a casino might bring. These include a forecast of 1,500 permanent jobs and substantial tax revenue that could be used to improve public education in the region.

Campaign Spending

Tomorrow, Richmond voters will face this 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?”

If a simple majority answers “yes,” ONE Casino + Resort will move closer to reality. The proposal comes from Urban One, a Black-owned media conglomerate whose mission “is to be the most trusted source in the African-American community that informs, entertains, and inspires our audience.”

Urban One’s focus is television, radio, print, and online media. The company has partnered with experienced casino operator Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) for its casino foray.

According to campaign finance disclosures, Urban One and P2E have spent approximately $1.9 million campaigning in support of the casino question. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that only $145,000 was collectively spent on the four successful casino referendums that passed last year in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Danville.

Last-Minute Pitch

The ONE Casino + Resort blueprint shows a 250-room hotel, 100,000-square-foot casino floor with 1,800 slot machines, over 100 table games, a sportsbook, theater, 15 restaurants and bars, and 55 acres of public green space with large- and small-breed dog parks.

A vote in support of the casino question, Urban One CEO Alfred Higgins says, is a vote in support of Richmond’s future.

Do we want new economic opportunities? Do we want to provide well-paying jobs for local residents? Do we want the River City to have a tourism beacon south of the James? Or do we want to let the naysayers keep saying no to ambitious ideas and embrace the status quo?” Higgins asked in an op-ed published yesterday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“The answer is clear as this historic opportunity for Richmond presents itself,” Higgins concluded.

Not everyone agrees, of course. Some argue that gambling will only hurt Richmond by way of new crime and financial hardships. “Casinos are predatory in nature,” opined local Chelsea Higgs.

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