RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton came to Richmond on Friday to voice his support for the Urban ONE casino project in the midst of Richmonders casting their referendum votes early and by mail. Sharpton said it wasn’t his radio contract with Urban ONE that drew him to supporting the project but the historic opportunity for Richmond to have this economic development.
Sharpton’s radio show is syndicated by the media conglomerate.
Sharpton spoke in favor of the casino saying it was a powerful economic opportunity for the Richmond community, specifically the southside which has seen disproportionate struggles.
He was questioned about the morality of a casino project and if his role as reverend affects his views on such a business. Sharpton explained that to him the proposed casino was more than just the casino, it was also the hotel and entertainment options. He said that cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic City have casinos and he doesn’t have a problem staying in those areas.
The reverend goes onto to say that he doesn’t understand selective morality. He said the only four-star hotel in Richmond right now, the Jefferson Hotel, is named after a slave owner but people still stay there. During the event he emphasized that this project was a unique economic accomplishment for the African American community.
Earlier this year, 8News spoke with Richmond faith leaders who did not support the project due to aversions to gambling or worries about if the job prospects are actually a reality.
Sharpton said he believed the casino and resort will create jobs, generate significant tax revenue that would go towards the city and open an opportunity for businesses like restaurants to get involved.
Urban ONE CEO Alfred Liggins was also present at the event on Friday. He answered some questions about his past political contributions and the future of the proposed casino.
Liggins said he doesn’t believe his contributions have swayed casino support stating that he hasn’t donated to any of the Richmond City Council members with the exception of Mike Jones’ delegate campaign. In 2020 he gave a $1,000 each to Levar Stoney, Alexsis Rodgers and Kim Gray during their mayoral campaigns.
He also addressed what would happen if the casino was approved but the business later failed economically. Liggins said even if ownership of the casino changed, which he doesn’t plan on happening, they would be held to the same agreement with the City of Richmond.
If approved next week, Liggins said that Urban ONE will apply for their gaming license with the Virginia Lottery by Dec. 15 and plan to start construction by July 2022.