Summary: Legislation to approve casinos in Virginia could be pushed back a year or more based on a study requirement.
Casino gaming is still not available in every state within the US, despite lawmakers and citizens being more open to the industry. Efforts have been on the table for quite some time in Virginia, with legislation being considered that would authorize casinos in the state. However, the legislation may now stall as a study is being required before gaming can begin.
Study on the Horizon
The Senate Finance Committee has approved a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment that requires a study to be conducted before the legislation can be considered further. The study must be completed and reviewed before the General Assembly will be allowed to consider the measure in 2020.
Several cities in the state have already been working on possible casino plans including the area of Portsmouth. Mayor of the city, John Rowe, has stated that he is disappointed with the decision as the city will have to wait even longer before they can get started with gaming. However, the mayor was pleased that the legislation is still alive and will bring a casino to the region.
Earlier in January, the leaders of Portsmouth announced their plans for casino gaming. The city would like to create a waterfront venue located at former Holiday Inn. Additional plans have been introduced for other areas of the state including Norfolk. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe announced back in December their plans for a resort casino in the region.
The legislation for casino gaming will now move on to the Join Legislative Audit and Review Commission. The study will be conducted and then brought to the General Assembly in 2020. An earlier version of the bill included the study but it would have been conducted while the process could continue, including allowing local referendums to take place.
Bristol was another area where casino gaming was being considered. Officials there hoped to see the referendum taking place this fall. Neal Osborne is a Virginia City Councilor of Bristol who stated that the decision was disappointing but not unexpected. There is an urgency to get the option ready sooner instead of later so the tax revenues can be brought to the region.
The cities interested in casino gaming certainly need the revenues. Beth Rhinehart, the CEO and President of the Chamber of Commerce in Bristol, an area looking to add casino gaming, has called the delay frustrating as well because the city has mounting debt. The money created from casino gaming would have removed a portion of the financial burden from the taxpayers.
For now, proponents are happy that at least the conversation is ongoing. The legislation is moving forward, so the potential is there, it’s just going to take time. Now, all eyes will be on the study as it is conducted. The hope is that their results will find the option is great for the state and the General Assembly will be happy with the findings.
It’s going to take some time. The delay of one year will cause the state to loss out on potential revenues. But, hopefully, the legislation will move forward next year so casinos can begin to be constructed.