Virginia state lawmakers displayed a willingness to reverse the state’s historic ban on casinos in a committee vote Tuesday.
The legislation advanced by the senate committee proposes local referendums for 5 cities in Virginia to choose whether or not to permit casinos to open there. The 5 cities consist of Bristol, Danville, Richmond, Norfolk, and Portsmouth.
The legislation’s biggest proponent, Democratic Senator Louise Lucas, represents Portsmouth. She believes casinos would reinvigorate her community by providing jobs and drawing in commerce.
“Just give us an opportunity to determine our own destiny,” she said.
However, conservative groups push back against the proposal. They counter it benefits wealthy developers and harms the poor. Essentially, they believe poor residents flock to casinos and a segment of them become addicted.
Despite arguments against and the state’s history of resistance, negotiations between developers and lawmakers began to determine sites, as well as who gets to develop. Among the candidates are Jim McGlothlin, a man who made his wealth in coal, and the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.
The latter eyes Richmond as a potential site for their casino.
Casinos Impact Horse Racing
A gaming subcommittee in the state Senate denied a compromise Tuesday offering an expansion of horse racing slots. Colonial Downs, the state’s sole horse racing track, operates the satellite machines throughout the state, but none in the northern part of Virginia.
Lawmakers appear reticent regarding gambling in Northern Virginia. Not far from its northern border, MGM Resorts International opened a $1.4 billion casino and resort in Maryland.
A study last year suggested casino legalization in the state would reduce horse racing by nearly half.
A lobbyist for Colonial Downs, Myles Louria, expressed dismay at the rejected expansion of machines throughout the state’s north. He called the move “inconsistent” with lawmakers’ previous moves.
Gambling remains a focal issue for Virginia’s lawmakers this year. Among the subjects up for consideration are online sports betting and betting machines in convenience stores.