Virginia’s casino legalization bill passes first…

A bill calling for the legalization of casino gambling in Virginia survived on Monday its first legislative hurdle
The Virginia Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology voted on Monday to advance a casino legalization bill that aims to bring casinos to up to five cities around the state.

The piece will now be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee.

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The bill calls for the legalization of casino gambling in the state and the authorization of the construction of commercial casinos in the cities of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth as well as of a tribal casino in Norfolk or Richmond.

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Under the legislative piece, a casino proposal for any of the above-mentioned five cities will have to be approved by residents at a citywide referendum.

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The City Councils of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth voiced last year their support for a legislation that would allow the construction of gambling venues in the cities. All three cities have been looking for years for ways to boost their ailing economies and to create new jobs for residents.
As mentioned above, the bill also includes provisions concerning a proposal by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to build a casino in Norfolk or Richmond. The tribe had previously sought authorization of its plan through a federal process for federally recognized tribes, but said recently that it would agree to operate a gambling venue under any commercial gaming laws the Virginia Legislature might adopt.

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Gov. Ralph Northam Wants Study

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The state’s Governor and other legislators have pointed out that they would rather hold off any major gambling expansion decision during this year’s legislative session so that a comprehensive study on the matter is conducted and the Legislature has enough time to debate that study’s findings.
Other lawmakers call for speedier legalization process so as to prevent the state from losing more gambling money to neighboring states where casino gambling is legal.
If the casino bill passes all legislative hurdles this session, it would allow the five cities to hold referendums on whether they want to host gambling venues this fall. In addition, the piece of legislation orders a study to be conducted by November 1, 2019, thus addressing Gov. Northam’s concerns.

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The state would not issue casino licenses until mid-2020 in order for legislators to have enough time to review the study’s findings and amend the law in a proper manner during the 2020 legislative session.
The General Laws Committee did not act on Monday on a separate legislative piece aiming to bring legal sports betting to Virginia. Under the bill that was approved yesterday by committee members, wagering on sporting events would be among the activities casinos would be allowed to conduct.
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