Election Day Explainer: Why Richmond Casino, New Jersey Sports Wagering Questions Failed

Election Day 2021 featured two main questions that sought to impact the US gaming industry. However, each ballot referendum was rejected by voters, which raises the question, “Why?”

Although Casino.org does not have the answers, they dug deeper to understand better why Richmond voters rejected the $565 million ONE Casino + Resort proposal for Virginia capital and why New Jerseyans chose not to expand sports wagering further.

Richmonders reject ONE Casino + Resort

Virginia legalized commercial sports betting last year through a bill planned to increase economic activity in troubled cities. Five cities qualified to ask residents whether they back using a commercial casino resort to create new jobs in the town and general more tax revenue.

Bristol, Portsmouth, Danville, and Norfolk all passed local casino referendums during the 2020 election. In addition, they all did it convincingly. 

Richmond chose to wait a year due to substantial interest from casino companies.

The capital ultimately received five proposals, including bids from prominent companies like Golden Nugget and Bally’s. The Cordish Companies and its Live! Casino brand also bid, along with Wind Creek Hospitality, Urban One, and the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. 

The bids received strong feedback, with more wealthy communities in the capital region opposing a casino in their neighborhood. Race was rejected into the matter when flyers opposing the Cordish $600 million prototype for the historic Scott’s Addition neighborhood were passed around.

“More traffic. Higher crime. Lower quality of life for us. Tell them to build it over there,” read the brochure, which raised many questions where “over there” is. 

Through its Resort Casino Evaluation Panel, Richmond ultimately went with Urban One, a Black-owned media conglomerate with no experience running a casino or a resort. Urban One joined with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, an experienced casino operator, to help guide the project. The $565 million undertaking was set to be constructed next to the Philip Morris tobacco plant, which was to be the first Black-owned Casino in the United States history.

Richmond voters cast 78,381 votes on the governor’s race. The city gubernatorial election went enormously in favor of Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, who supported one Casino. The former governor garnered more than 77% of the vote in Richmond but lost Statewide to Republican alien Glenn Youngkin.

As for the casino question, 77,823 Richmonders weighed in. More than 51% voted “no” to deny Urban One’s casino aspirations.

Analyzing the voting trend, most of the “no” vote came from north of the James River, where most of Richmond’s wealthiest neighborhoods are located. Although they still voted enormously Democrat and supported McAuliffe, who endorsed the Casino, that region overwhelmingly went against the sports betting initiative.

New Jerseyans rejected sports wagering expansion

New Jersey oddsmakers add more legal bets on sports each month than other states with regulated sports betting. Authorized oddsmakers in New Jersey, both retail and online, generated nearly $6 billion in sports bets in 2020.

To help New Jersey sustain its top position, industry stakeholders claimed that the ban on college sports wagering involving state schools or taking place within the state must be annulled.

New Jerseyans were allowed to do so on Election Day. However, 57%, more than 1.1 million voters voted “No” to allowing oddsmakers to take bets on Seton Hall, Rutgers, Princeton, and other universities based in New Jersey.  

“One potential concern with lifting the ban may have been that college athletes would feel more pressure and/or face more scrutiny on social media because of the added attention and money involved,” Jane Bokunewicz, director of Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism explained. “This is something that professional athletes have faced, with some questioning whether sports betting was a contributing factor.” 

Although the gaming industry anticipated the sports wagering expansion question could pass, political analysts believe the absence of any actual campaign to deliver the message ultimately led to its failure.

Last Updated on by Ryan

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