Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Read more VPM News coverage of the historic 2023 elections in Virginia.

Proposed casino deal would include millions for child care

Levar Stoney, in blue suit and striped tie, speaks to City Council
Scott Elmquist
VPM News File
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said Tuesday at City Hall that in conversations with residents and people who have recently moved to the city, childcare frequently has been mentioned as an issue.

Two day care centers could be built in Richmond's Southside.

The operators behind a proposed casino offered Richmond a new incentive in an effort to secure support for the $562 million resort in Southside.

The project, now called Richmond Grand Resort & Casino, is a joint venture between media company Urban One and Churchill Downs.

Richmond officials announced Tuesday at City Hall that operators would attach a $26 million proposal to the deal. Some of that money would pay for two new 100-slot child care centers in the city’s Southside; ongoing casino revenues would help fund child care subsidies citywide.

City officials also said Tuesday they anticipate $30 million in annual revenue from the new casino — $19 million of which would be dedicated to child care initiatives.

Voters must first weigh in on a referendum this fall. Early voting for the Nov. 7 election begins Sept. 22. A similar casino proposal narrowly failed in 2021.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said Tuesday that during roundtable conversations he’s had with young, female entrepreneurs, child care was the No. 1 challenge they faced as employers.

“We're attracting very talented people from all across the commonwealth to move … to Richmond. But the issue has been finding childcare that is affordable, but also high quality as well,” he said.

According to city officials, residents said they wanted to know what the casino revenue would be spent on — and the issue of affordable child care rose to the forefront of those conversations.

Eva Colen, manager of the city's Office of Children and Families, said casino revenue seemed like the best way to subsidize child care costs. She's been leading an effort to study the cost of universal preschool in the city — and realized options to pay for it are limited.

“Short of cutting from other departments, we're not going to see a new $19 million. That kind of revenue growth doesn't happen overnight,” Colen said.

City officials said there are fewer licensed child care centers in Southside than other parts of the city. In the Eighth District, where one of the new centers would be built, Colen said there are only one or two licensed providers.

But opponents of the project, like Allan-Charles Chipman, argue casinos are overwhelmingly predatory.

“Why do we think we need a casino in order to do this? I mean, I kind of say, you know, this is kind of like lipstick on a pig,” said Chipman, who works with the faith-based Initiatives of Change. “If you want lipstick on your pig, OK, but don't pretend that we need the pig to buy lipstick.”

He told VPM News the city can and should prioritize investments in child care: “I really have a problem with Mayor [Stoney] and the City Council saying, if developers get something that they want to get subsidized, they just come to the bargaining table. But somehow Southside has to go to the blackjack table to get it done.”

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
Megan Pauly covers education and health care issues in the greater Richmond region.
Related Stories