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Virginia one step closer to casino legalisation

Thu, Jan 24, 10:12pm by Staff Writer

The US state of Virginia is one step closer to having as many as five casinos open in the state after the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology voted to approve a bill dealing with casino legislation this week.

The bill allows for the possibility of five casinos to be built in Virginia – in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bristol, Danville and Richmond, according to WKTR News.

The casinos would require a referendum election in each of the cities to see if voters support the idea and the state wouldn’t be able to issue a license for a casino until July 2020.

Virginia has long tried to turn its back on the gambling industry, with the idea of casinos within the state’s borders having been brought up in the past and routinely smothered, according to Calvin Ayre.

This recent bill was sponsored in part by Senator Louise Lucas, with the Senate Committee passing the bill by a vote of 9-3-1 on Monday.

The bill now goes before the Senate Finance Committee for further review and to consider its financial and regulatory implications.

The bill would impose a tax rate of 10 per cent on the gross receipts from all approved casino games after subtracting money paid to winners.

Half of the proceeds will go toward a newly created fund that will divert proceeds back into the localities that host the casinos. The state government would use the other half.

Out of the money kept by the state government, the Virginia Watchdog reports that one per cent would go towards a gambling treatment and support fund, 50 per cent toward a public school construction program, and the remainder deposited into a general fund.

The time is now for Virginia

Director of Tax Policy Studies at the Cato Institute Chris Edwards said, “there’s no point in being a lagger here,” when referring to Virginia’s approach to legalising gambling.

Mr Edwards said that people are gambling online and traveling to other states to do it, with legalisation allowing Virginia to capitalise off of the economic benefits of casinos.

Nevada remains the gambling mecca of the United States, but nearby New Jersey and Pennsylvania are growing in their stature within the domestic industry.

Permitting Virginia to be home to casinos would allow money to stay in the state and not be diverted to nearby states in the region.

Despite casinos and gambling being on the horizon in Virginia, there remain several key roadblocks to negotiate before a long held dream becomes reality.

Virginia’s governor Ralph Northam has expressed his opinion, as have several state legislators, that he would be opposed to putting his signature to any gambling bill. Instead he requires more time to conduct comprehensive research and would like to see at least one study commence this year.

Virginia’s Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne recognises the importance of the bill and said that the administration is prepared to watch its progress.

She went on to say that: “I’m not saying the governor will be for or against it – but it’s not a study. It’s a big decision. The General Assembly ought to understand we have significant issues to deal with.”

Pamunkey Tribe interested in opening casino

If state lawmakers prohibit casino legislation, Virginia still might have an option.

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has states that it hopes to receive federal approval to launch a casino project in the state and has chosen Norfolk and Richmond as potential sites.

Pamunkey Tribal Chief Robert Gray told WAVY TV 10, “right now we see it as a win- win for both us and Norfolk. It’s a fantastic location, with the river and the city and transportation right there. We see a benefit in Norfolk and obviously a benefit to our tribe.”

The Tribe wants to acquire 20 acres of land to the east of Harbor Park along the Elizabeth River according to a project spokesman.

Once the land is acquired, the Tribe will apply with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to put the land into a trust, essentially making it its own sovereign nation.

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