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Gambling Legislation Moves Forward in Virginia

Summary: Efforts to see casino gaming start in Virginia have continued to move forward with the latest move seeing a senate bill approved.

While gambling seems to be a common occurrence across the United States, not every state allows casinos or other types of gaming. In Virginia, efforts are being made to see gaming come to the region by way of several gaming venues. Legislation has been introduced that would see five towns offering casino gambling. The bill has now moved out of one committee and moves on to the next for further consideration.

S 1126

Introduced by Senator Louise Lucas, S 1126 is a gambling measure that would see Virginia begin to offer casino gaming. The bill was recently approved by the Committee on General Laws and Technology. It will now be reviewed by the Finance Committee and hopefully move on yet again.

The bill was recently amended in the hopes of ensuring passage. Many lawmakers want to exercise caution when it comes to gambling so the changes provide an out so to speak so the state is not held necessarily to launching casino games.

With bill, voters located in Portsmouth, Bristol and Danville will be allowed to vote to authorize the construction of casinos in their respective locations. Also, up for consideration are Richmond and Norfolk. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe wants to create a casino in one of these regions.

Governor Ralph Northam is not necessarily on board with the casino plan so all efforts may be lost if he cannot be convinced. The Governor would like to see a study take place involving the impact that casinos would bring to the state. However, those who have a stake in the potential gambling industry, would like to see legislation passed quickly. Proponents point out that gaming revenues are already being lost as players leave Virginia and go to neighboring states to play.

Bill Details

In the Senate bill, none of the casino projects would be allowed to move forward unless a local referendum is completed and a fiscal impact study is conducted. If approved, operators would have to pay $50,000 for an application fee. If approved, the operator will pay 10% on gaming revenues by way of taxes.

Officials in Virginia want to wait to issuing licensing until July 2020. The process would take some time so efforts need to begin now to set the entire timeline in motion. The impact study would have to be completed by November 1st so the jurisdictions can then decide if the referendum will be included on the November ballot.

Sports betting is also in the mix. With the changes that took place this week, sports betting was added under the definition of casino gaming that is considered approved. As other states begin to capitalize on the sports betting industry, it seems that Virginia lawmakers want to get in on the action as well. Adding the option to this legislation is smart as it will cover several aspects with one bill.

Tribal interests are also included in the bill as the Pamunkey Indian Tribe works to offer casino gaming as well. The tribe has been busy with a plan to create a $700m facility in the state, with the council having recently approved the plans. The casino could bring as much as $1b a year to the economy with 4,000 jobs created.

The tribe was recognized by the federal government back in 2015 which gave them the right to offer casino gaming. However, there has been opposition to the recognition. MGM Resorts has been one group not supportive of the decision. Because of stalled efforts, the tribe is now asking to be considered as a commercial developer rather than a tribal entity.

The bill was changed to reflect the wishes of the tribe.