The legalization of sports betting legislation in Virginia is coming along, although it’s still not clear if it will be passed by voters. On Monday, the Senate in Virginia passed a bill that would allow for a referendum requiring voters to choose whether or not they want any casinos in the state. Bill S 1126 is one of seven different gaming-related bills introduced in Virginia this session.
S 1126 authorizes casino gaming in Virginia, to be regulated by the state’s Lottery Board. The bill sets out the circumstances in which casino gaming will be permitted in certain jurisdictions. It also sets out a tax rate of 10 percent on the adjusted gross receipts of operators. The bill specifically lays out the process for legalization: a referendum which must be based in the city where the casino would be developed so that residents can specifically vote as to whether they want a casino there or not.
The bill passed 28-12 and could eventually lead to the first casino in Virginia, which would be in Bristol. Before that, though, S 1126 has to be passed by the House of Delegates, then signed by the governor, and approved by voters.
S 1126 also requires a full legislative study to be carried out by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, which would look at how other states are handling casino gaming and determine how it would affect the Commonwealth before the matter makes it to the referendum. The referendum cannot be held until after the study is completed, and its findings aren’t due until November 2019. Furthermore, the bill also bans the Lottery Board from issuing any gaming operator licenses before July 1st, 2020.
During odd-numbered years, like this one, the Virginia General Assembly only meets for 30 days before being adjourned. That means legislators have until February 23rd to push it through to the next steps.
If the proposed Bristol Resort and Casino makes it past all of the legal hurdles, it will be permitted to offer casino games as well as sports betting. Two other cities, Portsmouth and Danville, might also get a referendum for casinos.
According to a statement he made last year, Speaker Kirk Cox is totally against the idea of casinos:
“I do not believe opening the commonwealth to casino gambling is in the state’s long-term best interests. I will continue to strongly oppose casino gambling and will encourage my colleagues to oppose it as well.”
That same article last year suggested that Governor Ralph Northam was open to the idea of keeping casino revenue in Virginia, especially since the MGM National Harbor Casino opened in Maryland, just across the river. Unfortunately, Governor Northam is in the midst of a major scandal, and it remains unclear how his political and personal hardships will affect sports betting moving forward.
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