Casino legislation approved by Virginia General Assembly

After on February 4, the Virginia Senate passed legislation that would allow for a local referendum regarding the allowing of a casino in Bristol, on Saturday night the state’s General Assembly passed a bill that could see casino gaming brought to select areas across the southeastern U.S. state.

The bill that was approved 64-33 by the House and 30-10 by the Senate now heads to the office of Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam, and if approved, the $250 million Bristol Resort and Casino project would be a go if the move is approved in citywide referenda.

According to the Bristol Herald Courier…

In addition to specifying the licensing requirements for casino gaming, Substitute Senate Bill 1126 authorizes Virginia Lottery Board regulation and further requires a report regarding recommendations for casino gaming in the state from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission by November 1. The bill, which also includes a re-enactment clause for the referenda provisions of the bill, moreover imposes civil and criminal penalties for violations of the of the casino gambling law.

Host city approval:

Only certain cities meeting the criteria outlined in the bill would be permitted to add casino gaming. And a referendum, which must be in place before January 1, 2021, must be passed by the city regarding the question of whether or not to permit casino gaming in their respective cities.

According to the newspaper, the legislation is, for the most part, the same as bills carried by Virginia State Senator, Bill Carrico, R-Galax and Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and would permit the referenda to take place in Portsmouth, Danville and Bristol. The legislation would additionally allow refernda in the cities of Norfolk and Richmond, which were identified as potential casino sites for a Pamunkey Indian Tribe-owned and operated casino.

“will provide a major economic boost”

A Saturday press release from the Bristol Resort and Casino group states…

“We are pleased that the General Assembly has created a framework for moving forward with this project. We look forward to working with the Governor on this legislation. The resort and casino will provide a major economic boost to the city of Bristol, as well as the entire Southwest Virginia and Tri-Cities region. We appreciate the strong support of our entire legislative delegation, who all see the importance of bringing more jobs and additional tax revenue to the region. As we take the next steps to make this project a reality, we will continue working closely with our local and state elected leaders,” as cited by the Bristol Herald Courier.

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Thirteen to fifteen percent tax:

The news agency further reports that the state’s casinos would be taxed at between 13% to 15% on their gaming revenues, with the exact rate to be based on a licensed gaming facility’s annual adjusted gross revenue. The bill would also reportedly provide for the way in which the tax proceeds would be distributed.

According to the bill:

Legislation must be re-enacted by the 2020 session of the General Assembly in order for a referendum to occur.No referendum will be held after January 1, 2021.No referendum will take place before the publication 7BALL of the findings and recommendations of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission regarding casino gaming pursuant to the second enactment of the act.The Virginia Lottery Board would be responsible for the development of regulations for the implementation of the act’s provisions beginning January 1, 2020, with such work to be completed by June 30, 2020.A gaming operation license would not be issued by the Virginia Lottery Board before July 1, 2020.The Lottery Board would be responsible for the establishment and implementation of a voluntary exclusion program, which would allow a person to voluntarily add themselves to a list barring individuals from entering the state’s future casinos or any other facility licensed and regulated by the board.It [the bill] would further establish the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund administered by the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services so that compulsive and problem gamblers may receive counseling and other support services as well as developing problem gambling prevention and treatment programs, along with providing grants for the support of organizations providing aid to compulsive gamblers.

Casino site:

In September last year, longtime Southwest Virginia business leaders, Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy announced the proposed resort casino for a 49-acre site where the former Bristol Mall now sits vacant.

Economic benefit:

According to the casino’s website, during the first year of operations, a full-scale resort casino in Bristol would employ 2,000 people, with that number growing to upwards of 5,200 within seven years.

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It goes on to state that “a resort that could provide 5,200 direct jobs with as average salary of $46,000, within seven years, with wages and benefits of more than $200 million each year.”

It would also bring in over 4,000,000 annual visitors to the area and create an economic impact to the independent city of Bristol and to Southwest Virginia that would exceed $1 billion annually and total over $4.5 billion within the first five years of operation.