Virginia delegate Israel O’Quinn has introduced legislation in the state that would allow for casino gambling. Local voters must approve the option via a referendum.
- House Bill 2536 to establish casinos in specific areas of the state
- Virginia Lottery Board would act as overseer
- Companion legislation to be created in Senate
Mr. O’Quinn introduced House Bill 2536 in the hopes of seeing Virginia add casino gambling. The option would be available in specific regions of the state. The bill would start the process of approving the Bristol Resort and Casino.
The $250m project is a private development that has been proposed for the Bristol Mall. If approved, local voters would then be able to vote on the project via a referendum.
The new bill limits casino gaming to any city that has a minimum of 40% of an assessed value of real estate. The property must be exempt from local property taxation. The region must also have an unemployment rate of four percentage points. The poverty rate must be 20% of the population. When compared with the year before, the population must also be decreasing at a rate of 20% or higher.
The bill includes the areas of Portsmouth, Danville and Bristol. In these three cities, the city councils have already voted in approval of the initiative. In addition, the legislation states that a casino license cannot be granted until a referendum approving the question for a casino has been voted on in each city.
Mr. O’Quinn said: “We have talked to people on both sides of the issues, and, for us, the whole point is to ensure we have the ability to let the people make a local decision on a local issue. There will be those who love the concept and hate the concept, but everyone will get to cast a vote equally, if the bill that we have passes. I feel that is the most fair and democratic way to do it.”
House Bill 2536 requires the local government of the city to petition the court via resolution to get started. A referendum must be requested and placed on a ballot. The referendum will then be considered by a citywide vote.
The ballot question must read in a specific manner. It should state: “Shall casino gaming be permitted at a casino gaming establishment in [the location], as may be approved by the Virginia Lottery Board?”
If approved, the gaming facility would be taxed at the rate of 10%. Half of that amount will go toward a grant program that provides construction for public schools in the state. Of the remainder, 1% would go toward a new program to treat problem gambling, and the rest to the general fund.
The second half of the taxed revenues would go to a fund designated for local casino gaming proceeds. Of this amount, 25% would be sent to the city where the gaming venue is located. The remaining 75% will then be divided equally for localities in the transportation region via the Regional Improvement Commission.
Lottery board in charge
The new bill places the Lottery Board in charge of the new gaming industry. The board will issue gaming permits and licensing for approved casinos. The group will also employ individuals to ensure the integrity of the industry.
More importantly, the board would be in charge of investigating any issues that occur in the industry. Officials will also inspect facilities to ensure operators are in compliance with regulations.
If the bill passes, operators will have to be approved for a license by the state. An application fee of $50,000 is required and is non-refundable. Games that can be provided include blackjack 21, baccarat, craps, poker, slot machines, and more.