Bill signed by Gov. could see casino gaming in Virginia by 2022

After having been given the green light by the state’s General Assembly in late February, as expected, Senate Bill 1126 was signed into law on March 22, 2019, by Governor Ralph Northam (D), making it a strong possibility that the state of Virginia could see casino gambling by 2022.

According to The Roanoke Times…

Via the legislation, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) is directed to conduct a comprehensive study of casino gaming regulations in the state, with the report generated to be submitted by the 1st of December this year. The new law additionally establishes framework for gaming to be overseen by the Lottery Board and would also allow for voter referenda on the subject to be conducted by certain localities.

Referenda limited to three cities:

SB 1126 allows for commercial casinos to be constructed in Bristol, Danville and Portsmouth, three economically challenged cities in the southeastern U.S. state. The law also paves the way for Pamunkey Indian Tribe-owned and operated casinos in Richmond and Norfolk.

After receiving federally recognized status in January 2016, the Virginia tribe revealed in December 2018, that it was in the midst of negotiations with the city of Norfolk for a $700 million casino project.

“still committed to doing the project 7BALL CX in Bristol”

The bill could also bring to fruition the $250 million Bristol Resort and Casino project brought by longtime Southwest Virginia business leaders, Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy for the vacant Bristol Mall.

Mall purchase:

Stacy’s company, Par Ventures LLC, finalized its acquisition of the Bristol Mall for $2.6 million on June 6, 2018.

Commenting on the action by Governor Northam, a spokesman for the Bristol project said in a statement…

“We are looking to stay engaged and working to see this through the process and we are still committed to doing the project in Bristol. We’ve got a ways to go but there is a commitment by lots of parties to go through this process that will hopefully allow us to move forward.”

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Re-enact stipulation:

The General Assembly must re-enact the legislation during its coming 2020 session, and if that happens, a series of deadlines must be established.

Only certain cities meeting the criteria outlined in the bill would be permitted to add casino gaming.

Commission findings:

Other terms include that until the bill is re-enacted and the findings of the JLARC are published, no referendum may be held, with a January 1, 2021 deadline in place for any such vote. Additionally, regulations must be assembled by the Lottery Board by June 30, 2020, and a gaming license not issued before July 1, 2020.Capital investment requirement:

Also stipulated in the bill, projects must meet a $200 million minimum capital investment in land, infrastructure, facilities, furnishings and equipment, before a gaming license would be issued.