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In historic move, virginia legislature passes casino legalization bill

The Virginia General Assembly supports the legalization of casino gambling and development of casinos in certain areas across the state
A bill paving the way for the establishment of casinos in select areas across Virginia passed the state General Assembly Saturday night.

The legislation is now heading to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk. The state’s top official has previously said that he would support casino expansion if it were beneficial for Virginia.

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State House and Senate lawmakers passed last night Substitute Senate Bill 1126. The piece authorizes the development of casinos in the cities of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth, but only if the move is approved in citywide referenda. This means that residents will have the final say on whether any of the three cities should host a gambling venue.

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Last night’s approval of the casino legalization bill was the first major gambling expansion effort to successfully survive through the Virginia’s Legislature in recent years. State lawmakers have traditionally been opposed to all forms of gambling.
SB 1126, which was nearly identical to a legislation introduced by Senators Bill Carrico and Louise Lucas earlier this year, also authorizes referenda in Richmond and Norfolk, which the Pamunkey Indian Tribe has identified as the potential hosts of a tribal casino.
The casino bill’s approval came as an excellent piece of news for a group of Bristol businessmen, who presented last September a plan to develop a $250 million casino resort at the vacant site of Bristol Mall.

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Casino Expansion Timeline
As mentioned above, SB 1126 now needs to be signed by Gov. Northam. The official has previously said that he would support a legislation that creates jobs and tax revenues for cash-strapped regions and the state,as a whole, so the piece is not likely to hit a roadblock at the Governor’s desk.
The piece tasks the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission with conducting a comprehensive study on the economic and social impacts of the establishment of casinos in the areas designated in the bill. The commission will have to present the results from its study and recommendation regarding the conduction of casino activities in the state by November 1, 2019.

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No citywide referenda will be able to take place unless the bill is re-enacted during the General Assembly’s 2020 legislative session.

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The Virginia Lottery Board will be charged with crafting rules and regulations for the operation of casinos in the state. It should begin work on those rules regulations on January 1, 2020 and present them by June 30, 2020. The Lottery Board will be able to begin issuing casino licenses after July 1, 2020.
Under the bill, citywide referenda in Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Norfolk, in which residents of the five cities will be able to voice their opinion on whether casinos should be established in the areas they reside in, should take place before January 1, 2021.

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The piece of legislation also requires the Lottery Board to establish a self-exclusion program that will enable individuals to exclude from gambling at the state’s future casinos or any other facility licensed and regulated by the board.

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Virginia’s casinos will be taxed at between 13% to 15% on their gaming revenues. The exact rate will be based on a licensed casino’s annual adjusted gross revenue.
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