Richmond voters have rejected a proposed Southside casino
Richmond voters have defeated a proposal to build a casino in Southside.
Organizers with Vote No on RVA Casino, a grassroots citizen group opposed to casino developments, declared victory in a short Facebook post last night: “We did it. We won.”
Members of the group, including Allan-Charles Chipman, have said they want Richmond to focus on economic development projects that wouldn’t create winners and losers.
“What it takes to generate these revenues is predatory, exploitative and it's unethical,” Chipman told VPM last week. “We can have development where everyone wins and not where someone has to lose big in order for someone else to win big.”
Mayor Levar Stoney issued a statement Wednesday morning accepting defeat.
“From the beginning, we said the people would decide. They have spoken, and we must respect their decision," Stoney wrote.
Activists have questioned the economic benefits of building a casino in Richmond since the idea was proposed. But, they have always agreed with proponents on the other side that an investment in Southside is overdue.
Reva Trammell represents Southside on the City Council. She voted in favor of the referendum because she wanted more economic development for her constituents, who she says the city neglects.
“Just look at our eighth district,” Trammell said. “Why is it that everybody else gets everything and we get left out? From jobs to infrastructure to clean up, all of that we get left out.”
Now that the casino is off the table, activists say it’s up to the City Council to address the structural and economic issues that have affected the area for decades. Southside resident J. Elias O’Neal told VPM he thinks it should never have been up to a private investor to revitalize Richmond’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.
“District 8 is one of the poorest districts in the city. A casino is not the way to uplift residents economically. There has to be real structural economic development strategies to bring about the changes necessary to promote the business growth those residents deserve,” O’Neal said.”The key to crucial economic development endeavors is investing in neighborhoods by maintaining and providing key services and public investment, something the city has neglected to do in the Southside for decades.”
While all results are unofficial, Election Day totals suggest West End and Museum District residents strongly opposed the casino, which won support from Southside and East End residents.