Local government officials in Danville, Virginia, are partnering with Caesars Entertainment to build a casino resort in the city. But residents in opposition to gambling have unified to make their voices heard.
Anti-casino yard signs are popping up throughout Danville, Virginia. (Image: WSET)
The group called “Protecting People” is a coalition of anti-gambling advocates who are warning Danville citizens on the alleged societal harms a casino would bring to the city. The campaign is handing out political yard signs that read “CasiNO.”
Protecting People was established for the express purpose of presenting a counterpoint to the seemingly glamorous appeal made by the gaming industry espousing the greatness of placing a casino in Danville,” the group’s mission statement reads.
On November 3, Danville voters will be asked via a ballot referendum whether they support allowing one casino license to be issued in the city. If a simple majority says yes, Caesars will be cleared to proceed with its project plans on the site of the former Dan River textile complex.
Protecting People organizer Brett Tooley says he’ll be voting no.
“People keep saying this is our last hope, this is Danville’s only hope. That’s not true. I believe we can get some new jobs in here without the casino,” Tooley told ABC News 13.
Voters in five cities in the Commonwealth will be asked during the election if they support allowing a casino in their hometown. Along with Danville, the qualifying cities are Norfolk, Richmond, Portsmouth, and Bristol.
Opposition groups to the ballot referendums have raised religious concerns.
Protecting People argues that the love of money is in opposition to the Bible. The group’s website has a column written by Russell Moore, who is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commissions of the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore opines that “gambling is a form of economic predation.”
“Most of the ‘market’ for gambling comes from those in despair, seeking meaning and a future. The most important thing a church can do to undercut the local casino is to preach the gospel,” Moore declared.
In Bristol, four churches have formed a coalition to oppose a potential casino resort. The Churches of Christ sent a publication titled “Gambling: The Love of Money” to area residents. The pamphlet also states that the love of money goes against the teachings of the Bible.
Caesars Counters Talking Points
In Moore’s article on the Protecting People website, he argues that casinos help only those who own the gaming property.
“Gambling grinds the faces of the poor into the ground. It benefits multinational corporations while oppressing the lower classes with illusory promises of wealth, and with (typically) low-wage, transitory jobs that simultaneously destroy every other economic engine of a local community,” Moore opines.
Caesars says nonsense. The casino giant states that the $400 million property would generate 1,300 permanent jobs, with a minimum hourly wage of $15. According to 2019 data from the US Census Bureau, 25.6 percent of all Danville residents were living in poverty, and the per capita income was just $22,200. That’s roughly $11.28 per hour.
Under Caesars’ operating contract with the city, the casino would pay Danville a minimum of $5 million annually in gaming revenue taxes. The resort would also be expected to pay north of $4 million each year in property, hotel, and sales taxes.
Danville officials say the tax money would be set aside for education, law enforcement, and marketing Danville as a new tourism destination.
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