Virginia’s Casino Bill is Dead for This Year

Virginia’s casino bill expired when the lawmaker who had proposed it suggested that it should be considered next year.

Senator L. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, who had proposed the bill to legalize casinos in Virginia, requested to keep the bill on hold as she requires time to get more support in the House of Delegates.

Senator Lucas’ bill, also known as Senate Bill 19, will permit the construction of casinos on Hampton Road. The Senate’s General Laws and Technology Committee had approved this bill, thus taking it a step closer to success. Last year, the same committee had refused to approve a similar casino bill.

The Virginian Pilot reports: “The same committee killed the effort last year, but it progressed on a 7-5 vote this time around, an outcome helped by Democrats’ reorganization of the committee when they seized power in the Senate last week.”

Although Lucas and many city officials were delighted when the bill got approved, it still has to journey through the Finance Committee, the Senate floor, and the House, which is controlled by the Republicans.

The bill has supporters as well as opponents. While entrepreneurs are in favor of it, family groups and religious organizations feel that it will lead to underage gambling and gambling addiction. Lucas feels that the state can use casino tax revenues for purposes of development.

Currently, Virginia is one of the 11 US states that have no Indian or commercial casinos, and many experts feel that it will be the last US state to legalize casino gaming.

The American Gaming Association (AGA), which lobbies for legalized casino gaming in the industry, had expressed interest in Senate Bill 19, but had no plans of getting entangled in Virginia’s affairs.

Sara Rayme, the senior vice president (public affairs) for AGA, said in an email that the AGA “will not engage in state legislative attempts to permit gaming (running around state capitols encouraging legislators to do one thing or the other); or more specifically, lobbying to legalize commercial gaming facilities in Virginia. The AGA will, however, unabashedly promote and provide facts about the value of our industry in all markets that are contemplating and/or have casino-style gaming.”

Industry representatives feel that Virginia just won’t legalize casino gaming. Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International, said shortly after his company got the license to construct a casino complex worth $925 million beside Maryland’s Potomac River that the MGM National Harbor will become the biggest land casino resort in the US, next only to Las Vegas casinos. Murren had a reason to make this statement as the MGM National Harbor expects Virginian players to contribute at least half of the casino resort’s total gambling revenues in 2019. The casino will be launched in the middle of 2016.

Speaking to Maryland journalists in December, Murren said that Virginia will not “get gaming in my lifetime.” When Jon Ralston, a political journalist in Nevada, interviewed him, Murren said that Virginia, along with many other states, will never legalize casino gambling.

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