RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -
An ABC 8News investigation exposes your tax dollars are being used to fund out-of-state casino trips.
At Byrd's Professional Detailing, Charles Byrd takes pride in making vehicles in Petersburg shine. He has been in business for 17 years and like most small business owners, Byrd knows the value of a dollar.
"You got to work," he says.
To take home $2,000, Byrd says he has to work for almost two weeks. So he was less than pleased when we showed him how the Petersburg Parks and Leisure Services Department had spent nearly $2,000 to pay a charter bus company to take a group of fixed-income senior citizens to Hollywood Casino in Charlestown, W.Va.
"I don't think good about that one," he says.
Petersburg City Manager William Johnson thinks differently.
"I think it's appropriate to fund the transportation to the casino for our seniors to have activities," Johnson says.
Johnson views the money as a drop in the bucket.
"It's $2,000 in a $100 million budget. They pay taxes. $2,000, I think, is a good payoff."
While defending their trip, Petersburg threw some of their neighbors under the proverbial casino bus.
"I believe other communities provide that service for their seniors as well," Johnson says.
He's right. On an early April Saturday morning in Prince George County, we found a casino bound group loading onto a tour bus. An invoice shows - just like Petersburg - it was headed for Charlestown.
The cost for this bus was a little more than $1,500. Snacks for those on board cost another $80, but with every single person going on the trip paying $40, the county "made" $300.
Over in Colonial Heights, it's the same story, Parks & Rec Director Craig Skalak did organize a casino bus trip, but they charge a fee that covers all costs including employee time. He says taxpayers are not funding this.
"We actually make money off of most of these trips," he says.
The surplus funds are then used to make repairs and build playgrounds like one on Wakefield Ave.
In March, two buses pulled out of city stadium headed up I-95 towards the bright lights and board walk of Atlantic City on a four-day trip organized by the Richmond's Parks & Rec Department.
Records show a contract with great escape tours to hit up the games of chance at a number of casinos. The tour company was paid more than $13,000. The buses cost more than $8,000.
The city residents who went on this trip didn't get a free ride. They paid to go, but the funds brought in were not enough to cover the entire cost. However Richmond maintains no tax dollars were used and the shortfall from this trip was made up by surpluses from others.
Back in Petersburg, Charles Byrd keeps on washing cars, knowing drops from his bucket are fueling casino fun.
"I'd rather for my tax dollars to be used for education," he says.