New Bill Would Open More Of Virginia Up For Casino Gaming

Written By Derek Helling on January 25, 2023
fairfax county virginia casino wren williams

The answer to the question of whether a fifth Virginia casino will emerge in Petersburg or Richmond might ultimately be neither. A new bill in the Virginia General Assembly would create new competition for casino gaming in Old Dominion.

While the proposal wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the chance of a casino in the state capital or Petersburg, it might open the door to a faster, smoother process in another part of the state. At the same time, it’s unclear whether citizens in any other part of the state are interested.

Virginia casino bill would expand eligibility

A 2019 Virginia law allowed for up to five brick-and-mortar casinos and specified exact locations for each. Among those eligible cities were Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond. Voters in four of those cities approved of such gaming in 2020 with Richmond being the exception in 2021.

On Jan. 20, Delegate Wren Williams filed HB 2499. The bill would somewhat eliminate those specific city requirements for casino licensing. It would allow any county in the state with a population of at least a million people to hold a voter referendum on the issue.

The catch to that tenet of the bill is there is just one such county in Virginia right now; Fairfax County. It would be partially up to county leaders where such a facility would reside within the bounds of the county. However, the bill does include some parameters.

According to the bill, a casino couldn’t lie anywhere under Washington Dulles International Airport flight paths. Furthermore, anywhere along the I-495 beltway. Lastly, the bill says the casino must be within a quarter of a mile of a silver line metro train station.

It’s uncertain how much support exists in the state legislature for Williams’ bill. At the very least, it could further complicate an already fraught situation.

The current status of the fifth Virginia casino

Since voters defeated the Richmond casino referendum in 2021, there’s been some back-and-forth in the Assembly with what to do about that. That drama has featured a push to allow the city of Petersburg, less than 25 miles away from Richmond, to essentially acquire the license originally intended for the state capital.

No such referendum has been scheduled in Petersburg, yet. Regardless, The Cordish Companies have presented plans for a Petersburg casino. That’s all contingent on the Assembly’s approval and a successful referendum in the city, though.

Additionally, Richmond leaders want the state to allow them to hold a second referendum. The Assembly and the courts in the state are still sorting that out. In theory, HB 2499 wouldn’t affect this situation.

However, if Fairfax voters were to approve a referendum, casino developers might focus their resources there instead of Petersburg or Richmond. There’s no guarantee that Fairfax County voters would deliver such a result if given the chance.

At this point, HB 2499 simply stands as another wrinkle to Virginia casino considerations in the state capitol. It could be a path to a fifth Virginia casino that would sidestep the contention between Petersburg and Richmond.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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