State legislators voted to ban all unregulated gaming machines in the state of Virginia last month, but that decision has now been overturned. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was hoping that these games could help aid the state in recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and lawmakers in the state sided with the Governor in a vote taken last week.
The state of Virginia is set to legalize sports betting later this year, and unregulated gaming machines were to be shut down as a part of this new law. It appeared that the bill would pass as it was written, but the coronavirus pandemic has changed things in a major way.
When the sports betting and expanded gambling bill landed on the desk of Governor Northam, he was expected to sign it into law. He decided to make a few notable changes to the bill, and allowing unregulated gaming machines to continue to operate was one of the amendments. The Governor sent the bill back to state lawmakers in hopes of letting these games continue to operate for another year, but the operators and businesses would be forced to pay a licensing fee to the state.
Lawmakers in Virginia met earlier this week, and voting on the amendments made by the Governor was one of the main points of discussion. The Senate voted 32-8 in favor of the amendments, and the House followed suit with a decisive 76-16 vote. Bars, truck stops, convenience stores, and other businesses in Virginia will be allowed to keep the games in operation through July 2021.
The reason for banning the use of these games in the first place was due to the fact that lawmakers in Virginia argued that the machines were taking money away from the state lottery. Virginia will now charge a monthly fee of $1,200 per month tax on these machines over the next year in hopes of bringing in some extra money for the state.
Every state in the US is looking for some financial relief from the coronavirus pandemic, and Virginia is set to capitalize on the gaming machines. Financial experts predict that Virginia will bring in close to $150 million in revenue between now and July 2021, when the games will be shut down for good. All of this money is expected to go towards COVID-19 relief efforts.
Businesses that currently offer these gaming machines were excited to be able to offer the machines for another 14 months, but it appears that there won’t be another amendment. Governor Northam has publicly stated that he will veto any bill that allows for these machines to continue to operate past July 1, 2021.
Casino Developers Ready to Build in Virginia
The businesses that offer gaming machines were not the only ones excited about the passing of the bill earlier this week. Casino developers throughout the state of Virginia now have the official word that they can begin to discuss and develop plans to open up in the state.
Even though the new bill will allow for casinos to be built in the state of Virginia, there are just five cities that are able to build. The five cities are Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Norfolk. There was strict criteria included in the bill that narrowed the locations where new casinos could be built.
Several cities have already begun taking or accepting bids on casino construction projects, while other cities were waiting for the official word. Major sports betting companies are expected to submit bids or proposals to the five cities, while Native American tribes are competing as well.
The passage of this new bill has also drawn some criticism from citizens of these five cities as they fear the worst when a new casino is built.