Virginia Casino Legalization Move Hanging by Thread as Governor Picks Sides

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Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia has yet to signal a clear stance on casino expansion in the state ahead of an anticipated discussion of proposed gambling legalization bill, SB1126, in the state’s General Assembly.

Virginia Gov. Remains Ambiguous about Gambling

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has confirmed he is open to the idea of legalizing the casino industry in the state, but hasn’t said whether he would back SB1126, a bill that the General Assembly might pass and send to his desk. Even if the governor went ahead with the approval, though, no casino license would be issued before July 1, 2020.

Speaking to the Bristol Herald Courier, Gov. Northam touched on multiple issues, including the expansion of gambling in the state. Presently, a bill has been filed with the Senate and House, which suggests that five cities host gaming facilities.

These five locations include Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond. Thanks to the bill, proposed by Sen. Todd Philion and Sen. Ben Chafin, Virginia may soon see a legal framework harbinging the future sprawl of casinos within the state.

Legalizing Casinos on the Agenda

As per the suggested legislation, the Virginia Lottery Board would be in charging of overseeing casino activities. In light of these developments, Gov. Northam guardedly outlined the events to follow, acknowledging that the General Assembly would most likely spend a lot of time negotiation the gambling bill in 2020.

The government said that any expansion should be done thoughtfully and responsibly. Virginia even commissioned a study to look into the gambling industry across the United States, and specifically how other states oversee their gambling industries.

Hundreds of millions could be coming in the way of Virginia as a result of legalizing casinos.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) study had to determine whether the proposed venues for casinos are feasible, and whether a sixth venue can be brought into deliberation. If anything, the study has established that legalizing casinos in Virginia would bring about 7,500 new jobs.

Reaping the Benefits

In his most recent address on the issue, Gov. Northam has said that he expects a would-be legalized casino industry to contribute to the public purse. He specifically pointed out that since it was created, the Virginia State Lottery had contributed $10 billion to public schools.

Discussing the benefits for the state purse, Gov. Northam explained that lottery proceeds had been falling slightly, and that the introduction of casinos might actually affect money collected through lottery ticket sales and other games.

Similarly, the governor is concerned how gaming in the state would affect already established segments, such as sports betting on horse racing. According to the JLARC study, there would be no negative impacts on other segments.

Without certainty on these issues, the governor said that it would be too early to tell if he can get behind the bill, even if manages to clear the General Assembly this year.

Yet, the governor acknowledged that by delaying the passage of a casino bill, Virginia residents continued to cross state border and generate significant capital outflow.

While a solution on a governmental level is needed, there have been more pitches for a casino. On Tuesday, January 7, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) announced that it had tied up a partnership with Steve Johnson, a real estate developer, in the hopes to bring a luxury casino to Bristol.

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