Virginia casino bill survives Senate scrutiny

Virginia casino bill survives Senate scrutiny

Virginia has moved one step closer to legalized gambling. After the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology approved a casino bill last month, the State Senate has now followed suit, giving the green light to allow the bill to proceed. It’s only one more step in a long process, though, as there is still a requirement for a comprehensive gambling study before advancing and voters would have the deciding vote on whether or not casinos could be erected.

Virginia casino bill survives Senate scrutinySenate Bill (SB) 1126 was sponsored by Senator Louise Lucas and recently survived a Senate vote, 28-12. The bill looks to introduce commercial casinos to three cities – Bristol, Danville and Portsmouth – and would also allow two resorts to be built in Richmond and Norfolk by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. All five locations could only break ground after local voters took to the polls and approved gambling referendums.

There’s virtually no chance that gambling will come to the Virginia landscape this year. Barring any last-minute reversals, amendments to the bill require a lengthy study that would prevent voting until after they’re complete, which won’t come untispl 2020.

The results of that study must be made public by November 1 of this year and state votes for the Senate and House of Delegates take place four days later. A casino referendum could conceivably be added to that ballot; however, if the study takes the entire allotment, four days won’t be enough time to prepare the ballots.

Additionally, the Senate Finance Committee has already approved a delay of any referendum until next year. The committee added to the bill, “The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission shall conduct a review of casino gaming laws in other states and report any findings and recommendations.” It further stipulates that “no referendum shall be held … prior to the publication of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s findings.”

SB 1126 also covers sports gambling, lumping it in with the definition of casino gaming. It now appears that Virginians may have to wait another year to place their bets, but they have alternatives. They can also cross state lines and give their money to casinos and sportsbooks in Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia or New Jersey.