Virginia is making drastic changes which could alter the sports gambling realm.
On Jan. 23, SB 1126 was introduced by State Sen. Louise Lucas. It was then passed by the Committee on General Laws and Technology by a 9-3-1 vote.
On March 22, Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill, which authorized a gaming study that could further the floodgates to casino gambling and online poker in the entire state.
This bill is impactful because it allows the Virginia Lottery Board to control casino gaming in the Commonwealth. The casino gaming is limited to a few cities that follow the principles described in the bill. Then, each city must vote on whether to allow casino gaming there.
Before Dec. 1, 2019 (the deadline for the report to be sent to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on General Laws Technology as well as the House Committee on General Laws), SB 1126 directs the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to put together a review of the laws regarding casino gaming in other states where it is legal.
Per SB 1126 this is laid out:
“The bill contains enactment clauses that prohibit (i) any referendum from being held prior to the publication of the JLARC findings and recommendations regarding casino gaming or after January 1, 2021, and (ii) the Board from issuing a license to operate a gaming operation before July 1, 2020. The bill also provides that amendments to the Code of Virginia that are made in the bill will not become effective unless reenacted by the 2020 Session of the General Assembly.”
Though Northam signed the bill, the fate of gaming in Virginia will come down to the study’s findings and the residents of the cities in question. Most governors pitch these kinds of moves as huge revenue boosts and jobs. That is exactly what Northam is doing to get this initiative going.
Many states now have legal casinos and Virginia is fighting for just that. Once again, this bill does not in fact legalize gambling and this review that is underway will be very important as findings are reported.
It could be a while, but the odds are in Virginia’s favor for this bill to pass.
The first step is a second passage by the General Assembly next January. All 40 seats in the state Senate and all 100 in the House of Delegates are up for election in November. So the State General Assembly could be drastically different than the one that passed the gaming study provision this spring.
Casinos likely would not even start construction for two years and online gaming might not even start anytime soon in Virginia. But the process is on track and many in Virginia are making it a priority right now.