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New Virginia Law Removes Richmond As Eligible Casino Site

Written By Katarina Vojvodic | Updated:
Tulips Bloom In Front Of Virginia State Capitol

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed bills to remove Richmond from the list of the state’s eligible cities to host a casino.

The bills were proposed by two Democrats representing parts of Richmond, Del. Betsy Carr and state Sen. Lamont Bagby. The measures made it through both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly unanimously.

The governor’s move comes nearly five months after voters defeated a proposal in November to bring a casino to the city’s Southside for the second time. The first time the vote got close (in a 51% to 49% vote in 2021) but was rejected in the second attempt, with nearly 62% of voters defeating the ballot referendum.

According to the ABC 8 News article,1 Sen. Bagby noted that Richmond residents voted him into the state Senate. “I supported the casino, but the people have spoken twice,” Bagby said.

Without listing eligible cities for a casino, the Code of Virginia specifies certain limits

The Virginia State Code doesn’t list cities eligible to host a Virginia casino but does cite certain limits and requirements. The bills signed by the governor strip out language making Richmond eligible. The Code of Virginia states2:

“The conduct of casino gaming shall be limited to the following eligible host cities:

Any city with a population greater than 200,000 according to the 2018 population estimates from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service of the University of Virginia; (ii) in which at least 24 percent of the assessed value of all real estate in such city is exempt from local property taxation, according to the Virginia Department of Taxation Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2018;”

According to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service of the University of Virginia estimate, Richmond falls under these criteria3. The city had more than 230,000 residents in 2018. Likewise, a quarter of the assessed value of all real estate in the city was exempt from property taxes in fiscal year 2018.

While another bill could eventually add this language back and improve Richmond casino’s chances, Bagby said the odds of that possibility are “slim to none,” 8 News reported.

Petersburg casino project requires reapproval from General Assembly

Another Virginia casino bill, SB 6284, which would make Petersburg eligible to become one of the cities to host a casino in Virginia, also passed. But Gov. Youngkin has yet to respond to the legislation.

In March, the General Assembly approved a bill adding Petersburg to the list of Virginia cities eligible to host a casino, announcing the five finalists who wish to partner with Petersburg on a casino project.

The approved version of the bill includes a reenactment clause that states the measure will not take effect unless the legislature approves it again during a regular or special session.

Petersburg is currently reviewing casino proposals from:

  • Bally’s
  • Cordish Companies
  • Rivers Casino/Rush Street Gaming
  • Warrenton Group
  • Penn Entertainment

According to a Virginia Mercury news story, Sen. Lashrecse Aird, the sponsor of the bill along with Sen. Louise Lucas, said5:

“Like all bills going through the legislative process, various members have policy perspectives that get incorporated as part of the bill along the way. I remain in active conversation regarding whether the clause will remain on the final version of the bill.”

Youngkin may send an amendment removing the reenactment clause from the bill. If that happens, lawmakers will debate in two weeks when they return to Richmond.

Sources

  1. Richmond blocked from another casino vote after failed efforts ↩︎
  2. Code of Virginia: 58.1-4107 ↩︎
  3. Virginia Population Estimates ↩︎
  4. Bill Tracking – 2024 session ↩︎
  5. Petersburg casino plan requires reapproval from General Assembly ↩︎
Photo by AP Photo/Steve Helber
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Written by
Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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