Virginia is one of the states that casinos are still illegal, but this fact might soon change as a State Senate committee is pushing up with a legislative bill that would legalize casinos in five cities, Bristol, Danville, Richmond, Norfolk and Portsmouth, all of them situated along the southern state line.
Besides that, the legislature session that is kicking up in March 2020 would consider legalizing online sports betting and whether to regulate betting machines that have flooded convenience stores in the recent years.
Casino-Type Resort Interests Behind the Legislation
Casinos, however, promise to be the biggest focal point, with certain groups of people, developers, local governments, casino operators and lawmakers, lobbying for years for their legalization, suggesting that large-scale casino-type resorts along the southern state line where economic activities are somewhat stale and place locals at a disadvantage would boost the areas by bringing in significant revenues and creating a lot of jobs.
The key projects behind the idea of legalizing casinos in these cities are the Hard Rock Casino & Resort in Bristol, behind which stands the interest of the wealthy coal industrialist Jim McGlothlin, and the two potential tribal projects of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe for Richmond and Norfolk.
Some Organizations Express Serious Concern
The Family Foundation, among other opponents to the idea of letting people from the 5 mentioned cities to have a referendum vote on whether to let casinos in or not, argues that the only ones that would profit would be wealthy developers and casino operators, while the poor people in the state would be the ones most hurt as they are viewed most vulnerable to gambling and developing bad gambling-related habits.
Need For Market Competitiveness Assessment
Passing the required legislation would not be an easy task and even the chief sponsor of the legislation and the General Assembly’s most outspoken supporter of casino legalization, Senator Louise Lucas, recognizes that fact, as during the 2019 sessions legislators decided that they needed to have an assessment of the market competitiveness and tasked the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to create a report.
Report Suggests Horse Racing Would Suffer Most
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission came out with a report that such legalization would generate around $260 million a year from taxes on gaming and would create at least 5,000 jobs, but most importantly, these casinos would severely hit the state’s horse racing, with up to 45% decline in revenue predicted, mostly due to less money from the recently legalized to fund live horse-racing activities slot-like machines.
Final Outcome Unclear
The recent rejection by a subcommittee on gaming of the proposal to expand the region of slot machines operated by the company that runs the horse races, Colonial Downs, to the densely populated northern part of the state, to soften up the hit from the casinos, does not give much hope for the proposed bill to pass through the Senate, still legislation sponsors are hopeful for a final positive outcome.