Crusade for Voters supports November referendum for casino revenue use

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/21/2022, 6 p.m.
If a casino is ever built in Richmond, should all the tax dollars generated from the gambling center go to …

If a casino is ever built in Richmond, should all the tax dollars generated from the gambling center go to modernizing Richmond’s decrepit school buildings?

According to the Richmond Crusade for Voters, that question needs to go to the city’s voters.

Tuesday night, the area’s oldest and largest African-American political group issued a call to City Council to put an advisory referendum on the November ballot that would allow city residents an opportunity to decide that question.

The Crusade issued the call in embracing political strategist Paul Goldman’s proposal for a referendum on how to use the money that the casino would generate for city coffers.

The Crusade’s motion urges the council to request that the Richmond Circuit Court order that question to be put before voters in November. A resolution has been drafted and could be considered at the council’s next meeting on Monday, July 25. Before the vote, Cathy Hughes, a Crusade member and board chair of the Black media giant Urban One that is the city’s selected developer for a casino-resort in Richmond’s South Side, called Mr. Goldman’s proposal “a brilliant idea” and urged the membership to back it.

Ms. Hughes, who recently moved to Richmond, joined the Crusade last month, according to Jonathan Davis, Crusade president.

As the Free Press first reported in June, Mr. Goldman proposed the referendum as a way to counter opposition at the General Assembly to allowing Richmond to hold a second vote on hosting a casino.

The legislature approved a state budget with language blocking Richmond from holding a second vote on the casino in November, and also barring the state from considering an operating license for a year if Richmond voters approved the casino this time.

The legislature did so to allow time for a study to determine whether Petersburg should gain an opportunity to have a casino after Richmond voters narrowly rejected the casino in November 2021.

Though the council has been mulling some policy resolutions on how to use casino tax dollars, Mr. Goldman was the first to propose that voters be involved in the decision.

Mr. Goldman said his proposal would change the conversation.

If voters pass the referendum and send it to the General Assembly for approval, he said members of Richmond’s delegation would have to reconsider supporting Petersburg given that the Richmond casino money would be used for renovating or replacing some of the 30 or so schools that average 60 years of age.

With the city unable to afford to modernize most of those buildings, the casino tax dollars would provide a new revenue stream to tackle a long standing, but unaddressed issue, Mr. Goldman said.