According to Virginia gambling laws, the only legal betting activities in the state are bingo, a state lottery, horse racing and daily fantasy sports. The only option for players who would like to enjoy a casino experience is to travel to another state and it is not a surprise that there are many providers of services that will transport gamblers out of state borders. However, the situation might change soon as a new bill has just been filed.
The Bill In Details
Last week, the Republican Delegate Barry Knight pre-filed the House Bill No. 4 (HB 4) which seeks amendments in the Code of Virginia and which would legalize casino gaming and sports betting. Casino gaming would be authorized in the Commonwealth and should be regulated by the Virginia Lottery Board. As per the bill, it would include sports betting.
The bill comes as a result of a previous study into the current state’s rules for gambling and their impact. With Democratic Governor Ralph Northam being unwelcoming to the idea of lealising casino gambling, this past session the state’s General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1126, which will analyse the casino gaming laws in other states and their fiscal and social impact. The results of the study are to be announced before 1 December.
Knight’s proposed legislation will start looking again into the issue. Interestingly, citizens will be able to decide whether they would like to have a casino in their municipality or not, as a referendum must be held giving citizens the final word.
The pioneers Portsmouth, Danville and Bristol
The cities of Portsmouth, Danville and Bristol are already keen on giving green light to the gambling venues, while the Pamunkey Tribe is making plans to build one in Norfolk and Richmond.
The Virginian-Pilot has published a report that says Portsmouth officials are working with Rush Street Gaming to research and develop a casino if citizens vote yes on the legislation. As soon as casinos are legal, Rush Street will acquire the land for building the casino at $400,000 per acre with a minimum of $10 million for the whole area. According to the non-binding agreement, the place must be big enough for a parking garage and a “first-class” hotel. Rush Street chairman and co-founder Neil Bluhm said “I promise you we will build something you’ll be proud of, we couldn’t be more thrilled that you’ve selected us to develop a terrific entertainment district facility”.
State Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, has been making efforts to approve commercial gambling in Portsmouth for a long time. This year, the city is making steps to approve legislation that would allow cities with poorer economies to hold referendums, letting residents decide for themselves if they would like to have casino venues.
Under the bill, Virginia Lottery Board will regulate the industry in which operators will be obliged to spend at least $200 million on their facilities.