Oct 31, 2023 - Politics

Richmond casino campaign spending nears $10M

Illustration of a close up of a tower of cards made out of money.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Richmond's would-be casino developers are closing in on $10 million in campaign spending.

What's happening: The two partners in the project, Churchill Downs and Urban One, reported an additional $1.1 million in contributions last month.

  • That brings their total contributions to $9.6 million with less than a week to go before Election Day, per reports filed with the Virginia Department of Elections.

Context: It's nearly four times as much as Urban One spent on the failed 2021 referendum and eight times what pro-casino campaigns spent on referendums in other cities, per data compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project.

Zoom in: Developers have used the money to blanket the airwaves in ads, hire a small army of canvassers and pay food trucks to hand out free food at early voting locations.

The latest: Last weekend, they hosted a free concert outside the south Richmond early voting location, Hickory Hill Community Center.

  • It was headlined by The Isley Brothers, who are currently on tour and would have cost at least $60 to see at a nearby paid venue.
  • The concert was expected to draw 6,000, per WTVR.

Yes, but: If their goal was to get attendees to vote while they were there, it's not clear it paid off.

  • The city registrar's office told Axios that 393 voters cast ballots at Hickory Hill on Saturday, compared to 316 across town at the Laburnum Avenue location.

The big picture: Turnout in the city, where in most precincts there are no contested General Assembly races on the ballot, continues to lag the state and region as a whole, per VPAP.

  • Meanwhile, internal polling in the race has shown voters are evenly split on the casino proposal, per WRIC.
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