Casino Debate Heating Up in Virginia
Five cities in Virginia will have a big decision to make this November, and it won’t have anything to do with the presidential race. Residents of these cities will be asked to vote on a referendum that will allow for the construction of a new casino.
The five cities in Virginia that will have this question on the ballot are Briston, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond. State lawmakers identified these cities as potential sites for new casinos based on revenue and economic measures.
Almost all of these cities have had plenty of discussion surrounding the upcoming vote, but Danville is currently seeing the biggest battle. Sides have been drawn, and each side is looking to sway voters in advance of the election.
Caesars Entertainment will be building a brand new casino resort in Danville if the referendum passes in November. Local government officials chose that casino giant, and lawmakers are hoping the issue passes to bring in new revenue.
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A group called “Protecting People” is the biggest opponent to the referendum currently, and they are passing out yard signs to people throughout the city. These yard signs have big, bold letters on them that read “Vote CasiNO.”
The vote will come down to a simple majority, and if it passes, Caesars is expected to start the construction process almost immediately. Residents have been promised a considerable boost in revenue and new jobs as a part of this casino project, but the “Protecting People” group is urging citizens to reconsider.
Religious Community A Big Opponent
Along with the “Protecting People” group in Danville, religious groups from around the state have banded together to fight these referendums. Virginia has traditionally been a very conservative state, and new casinos challenge that way of life.
“Protecting People” has argued that the love of money goes directly against the teachings of the Bible, and they are urging Christians and other spiritual people to vote no. Russell Moore, argues that gambling is a form of economic predation.
Moore is a very outspoken religious leader in Virginia as he is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commissions of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Bristol, Virginia, has also seen religious groups fight against the vote as four churches have banded together to create a coalition against the referendum. These churches have distributed a pamphlet to residents in that city, highlighting the negative effects of gambling.
Caesars Hoping to Convince Voters
Caesars is set to benefit if the referendum passes, and that company is fighting back against the “Protecting People” group. The company has laid out the economic boost that the casino project will provide to the Danville community.
According to Caesars’ report, the company is looking to add 1,300 permanent jobs for Danville residents, and each job would have a minimum wage of $15 per hour. This would provide a huge boost for workers in that area as more than a quarter of residents make just over $11 per hour on average.
In 2019, 25.6% of residents were living below the poverty level, with an annual income of just $22,000. While residents from outside of the city would fill some of these jobs, most of the workers would be Danville residents.
The contract that Caesars has signed with the city of Danville will also require a yearly payment of at least $5 million in taxes. City officials in Daville have announced that the tax revenue will be used for law enforcement, education, and to help market Danville as a new tourist destination.