- Virginia General Assembly has approved legislation to bring casino gaming to the state
- Substitute Senate Bill 1126 must now be signed by the governor and voter approved before coming to fruition
- If approved, the Virginia Lottery Board would be in charge of the new industry
Substitute Senate Bill 1126 has been approved by the Virginia General Assembly. The bill legalizes casino gaming, with five cities set to consider the option. Now, the bill must be signed by the governor.
Once signed, a referendum will be placed on the ballot and voted on by residents of selected regions. Voter approval is needed for any casino to be created in the state.
SB 1126 authorizes casino gaming and puts the Virginia Lottery Board in charge of regulating the new industry. Licensing requirements for casino gaming are set out in the legislation along with criminal and civil penalties for violations. Only certain cities will be able to offer casino gaming and certain criteria must be met in order to become an approved city.
On top of meeting requirements, the host city must place a referendum on the upcoming ballot this year and voters must approve the motion to allow casino gaming in their region. A successful referendum must be enacted before the start of January 2021.
If a local voter referendum is approved, only one license for casino gaming can be issued per city by the state.
This bill was approved by the House with a vote of 64-33. The Virginia Senate approved the bill just a few days prior with a vote of 30-10.
The process of seeing casinos come to the state will take some time. The legislation requires the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to conduct a comprehensive study on the impact of casino gaming on the state, in particular the social and economic aspects.
The results of the study must be presented, and recommendations made by November 1 2019. This leaves just a few months for the study to be conducted.
The Virginia Lottery Board will be required to draw up rules and regulations. Work in this area should begin on January 1, 2020 and the board must present them by June 30, 2020. The board can then issue licenses from July 1, 2020.
The Lottery Board is required by the law to set up a voluntary self-exclusion program where players can voluntarily ban themselves from a casino venue.
A Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund must also be created to provide funds for counseling and other services for problem and compulsive gamblers. The fund will be administered by the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Departmental Services.
Virginia ready for gaming
Now, the state will have to wait until the Commission completes its study and delivers its report before moving forward.
Referendums would be added to the ballot in Bristol, Norfolk, Danville, Richmond and Portsmouth. Residents of these cities will be able to determine if casino gaming will come to pass. The areas of Richmond and Portsmouth are regions home to the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. The tribe would like to use sites in the areas to create casino facilities.
Support has been shown for the casino legislation via the tribe as well as other gaming groups. After the General Assembly approved the measure, the Bristol Resort and Casino showed its support.
The group said: “We are pleased that the General Assembly has created a framework for moving forward with this project. We look forward to working with the Governor on this legislation. The resort and casino will provide a major economic boost to the city of Bristol, as well as the entire Southwest Virginia and Tri-Cities region.
“We appreciate the strong support of our entire legislative delegation, who all see the importance of bringing more jobs and additional tax revenue to the region. As we take the next steps to make this project a reality, we will continue working closely with our local and state elected leaders.”