Richmond Casino Campaign Expenditure: Over $400 Per Vote

The failed Richmond casino referendum, backed by Urban One and Churchill Downs, proved to be a costly defeat for the developers. Despite spending heavily on the campaign, the voters of Richmond once again rejected the proposal for a Las Vegas-style casino.

In 2021, a similar gaming referendum was narrowly defeated by a 51-49% outcome, with less than 1,500 votes being the difference. The developers believed that a more coordinated campaign promoting the economic benefits of the resort would sway the vote in their favor this time around. However, they were mistaken.

Urban One and Churchill Downs collectively spent over $10 million on their “Richmond Wins, Vote Yes” political action committee, running commercials and social media adverts promoting the $562 million Richmond Grand Resort & Casino. The developers claimed that the resort would bring thousands of good-paying jobs to the economically struggling Southside of Richmond.

Despite their efforts, the referendum was more strongly rejected in 2023, with the project garnering less than 39% of the vote. This equated to the developers spending about $431 in campaign dollars per vote, while the opposition spent just shy of $400,000, or about ten dollars per vote.

The campaign also revealed a racial and socioeconomic divide within the city, with wealthier neighborhoods primarily opposing the casino. Urban One founder Cathy Hughes even levied racial accusations against her casino opponents, stating that those who oppose the project, even if they are Black, more closely align with white people.

The results showed that of the 72 precincts in Richmond, just 20 voted in favor of the gaming initiative. The more affluent communities, as well as others, strongly rejected the casino, ultimately leading to the defeat of the referendum.