RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s hotel and casino workers union, “UNITE HERE Local 25,” released a statement Tuesday night, supporting the Virginia Senate budget amendment that would prevent another referendum in Richmond before November 2023.
Motivation for the union’s support came over concerns that Urban One, the company behind the project, would create low-wage jobs with poor benefits. A selling point of the casino in the past has been that it would bring 1500 new jobs to the city.
“With skyrocketing costs of living and our recovery from the pandemic well underway, casino workers in Virginia need jobs that pay good wages and benefits,” said Sam Epps, Political Director of UNITE HERE Local 25. “That is why we strongly support further studying the state and local revenue impacts so that we can ensure that any new casino creates equitable economic development and high-quality jobs.”
UNITE HERE Local 25 emphasized that workers in the industry are predominantly immigrants, women and people of color. “[We are] workers disproportionately affected by income inequality and bad jobs,” Epps said. “Workers need to understand how they will benefit from new casino development before it moves forward.”
Richmond City Council voted to revive a referendum of the Urban ONE casino project in Jan. 2022, following a failed proposal in 2021. And the CEO of Churchill Downs expressed interest in backing the project after an acquisition deal with Urban One’s prospective project partner, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment.
“While we are grateful to City and Mayor of Richmond for their shared commitment to creating good jobs, we are concerned that Urban One may not share their goals,” Epps said. “We urge the House of Delegates to concur with the Senate’s budget amendment for further study of new gaming development. Whether this casino is built in Richmond or Petersburg, it should be built in a way that benefits the community and the Commonwealth, not simply enriches a developer.”