Virginia Lawmakers Continue to Push Gambling Legislation Forward
The state of Virginia is one that does not have casino gaming. Very few states in the US do not offer casinos and Virginia lawmakers are hoping that they are no longer a part of that list in the future. A bill has been slowly making the rounds to allow casinos to be created in five cities of the state. This week, a Senate Subcommittee approved the measure, which puts its one step closer to becoming law.
The potential for casinos to come to Virginia is showing promise as the bill has support in the state. Similar legislative efforts from last year fell short when the General Assembly voted for a nonpartisan commission to study the option. Since that time, lawmakers have incorporated what was learned as to how the industry should be regulated.
According to Senator Louise Lucas, legalizing casino gaming in Virginia would help to provide a boost to areas that are currently economically distressed. It would allow the five locations up for consideration to define their own destiny.
The legislation sets certain criteria for the cities that are eligible for the casino construction. For a city to qualify, they had to meet certain poverty rates, a decline in population and unemployment rates. The trends can be reversed if the legislation becomes law.
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For the casino projects to move forward, the bill must pass within the House and Senate and be approved by the governor. Voter referendums would then have to take place in the five cities of Richmond, Bristol, Portsmouth, Danville and Norfolk and approved.
The goal is to get the five regions up and running first and then consider more gaming for the state. Lawmakers want to see how the areas fare before considering a larger expansion.
Competitive Bidding a Must
The study conducted by the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission reported that a competitive bidding process is needed when choosing developers for each city. The Commission recommended that a committee be created that will evaluate proposals from developers. The committee should include people with experience in business, operations and finance, with representation for the state as well as local jurisdictions.
The cities can choose a developer, but the entity must still be vetted by the committee before a referendum will be held for consideration. The study also said that special consideration should be given to federally recognized Indian tribes when the selection process begins.
The legislation will also create a trust fund for the state’s indigenous people with money distributed equally among the six federally recognized tribes in the state via quarterly payments. The Pamunkey Indians feel that having their own economic independence via the fund will help tribal members with education, health care and housing efforts.
The Pamunkey Indians are hoping to be in on the casino action, with plans in place to launch casino projects in both Norfolk and Richmond. As the legislation has moved forward, shareholders have begun negotiations to be ready if the opportunity arises for casinos to come to fruition.