Virginia Moves Toward Legalizing Casinos

Virginia state flag

30-second summary

  • Virginia traditionally has been hesitant about gambling
  • A wide-ranging bill to legalize casinos has passed the state senate
  • It would establish strict criteria for cities could obtain a license
  • A comprehensive study and public vote on the issue will be needed
  • Seven sports betting bills have already been put forward in 2019

Virginia making moves

Traditionally, as a conservative state, Virginia has been hesitant to embrace gambling. However, there has been a lot of talk lately about welcoming of casinos and sports.

Currently, there are no casinos in the state and betting on horse races is the main form of legal gambling, but there are signs that the state may cash in on the sports betting gravy train by easing its tight casino laws.

Potential casino coming to town

A casino bill was approved by the Virginia Senate Committee for General Laws and Technology in January, and the state senate has now passed this bill.

While there is still a long way to go before it becomes law, it surprises many how much support it is receiving. A comprehensive study on the potential effects must be done before the next step is taken. There will also need to be a public vote on the issue before it becomes law.

Senator Louise Lucas is the sponsor of the bill, which the Senate approved on a 28-12 vote. It would allow commercial casinos in three cities, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol. The Pamunkey Tribe would also be allowed to build casino resorts in Norfolk and Richmond.

However, the bill can probably not become law this year. The study will take a long time, and a public vote will probably not take place until 2020. The deadline for the publication of study results is November 1.

The state votes for both the House of Delegates and the Senate will be held just four days after this deadline. While there is always a chance the bill will be put on the ballot, four days would not be enough time to prepare the issue if the study only becomes public on the deadline day.

Details of gambling bill

As part of this bill, specific criteria would be established for cities to host casinos. The criteria would include an unemployment rate of at least 4%, a poverty rate of at least 20%, and a decline in population of 7% or greater from 1990 until 2016.

Only a single casino license would be per city for commercial casinos. Tribal casinos will be legal in cities that have at least 200,000 people and where 24% of the total real estate has local property tax exemptions. There would also need to be a local referendum on the issue before issuing a license.  This covers sports betting, slots, dice, and table games. There are also plans to include online betting as part of this bill.

The Virginia Lottery Board would be in charge of regulation. A 10% tax would be levied on gross casino revenues and the money would be allocated to numerous causes, including helping problem gambling programs. Local cities and authorities would also receive a share.

Potential for sports betting

There is also the potential legalization of sports betting in the state. Many Virginia residents go to other states to place their sports bets. This is revenue Virginia is missing out on that could be put to good use.

Sports betting would be legalized as part of the current casino bill. In total, seven sports betting bills have been put forward so far this year. It is likely that any final form of legal sports betting would not allow bettors to place wagers on games involving teams from Virginia.

Sports betting would go well with casino legalization and would be a strong impetus for the economy in Virginia. It would provide much-needed funds to support numerous social programs in the state.