Casino plans move forward with GA vote
Legislators allow casino gaming in five cities, pending November referendums
A bill allowing commercial casinos in five cities is expected to be signed by Gov. Ralph Northam after it passed the Virginia General Assembly on Sunday by a 60-35 vote in the House of Delegates, a day after the state Senate passed the bill 27-12.
HB4 authorizes casino gaming in Portsmouth, Richmond, Norfolk, Danville and Bristol, regulated by the Virginia Lottery Board. Each eligible city must hold a referendum on the November ballot for voters to decide whether to allow a casino there.
This means that plans for casinos in the five cities can move forward, including two proposed by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in Norfolk and Richmond, the Hard Rock Resort and Casino in Bristol and the city of Portsmouth’s casino partnership with Rush Street Gaming. Danville officials have met with casino businesses — including Caesars Entertainment — in recent weeks after issuing a request for proposals in December.
“The Pamunkey Tribe is eager to move forward with its plans to build a world-class resort and casino in Norfolk and ready to respond to Richmond’s request for proposals to bring a casino to the River City,” tribe spokesman Jay Smith said in a statement Sunday. “After centuries of disenfranchisement and social injustices, the Pamunkey Tribe is on the verge of ensuring the long-term success of the tribe. Its plans to build two resorts with casinos will allow the tribe to provide needed programs and services to its members. It will be a great partner for Norfolk and Richmond. The tribe will keep profits in Virginia through reinvestment locally and will provide tremendous benefits to these regions of the commonwealth for years to come.”
The Pamunkey have partnered on both projects with Tennessee investor Jon Yarbrough, who has extensive experience with Indian casinos. Last September, Norfolk City Council voted 7-1 to allow the city to sell the tribe land on the Elizabeth River near Harbor Park where the casino would be built. The city and the tribe signed a development agreement in January to regulate the project. In Richmond, the tribe has proposed a $350 million casino on the city’s South Side, a plan it will submit to the city in a request for proposals.
The bill also requires the Virginia Racing Commission to authorize an additional 600 historical horse-racing machines — the slot-like games at Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums, owned by Colonial Downs — each time a host city is approved, with a limit of 2,500 additional machines statewide. Legislators also added support funds for problem gamblers, which will be administered by the commissioner of Behavioral Health and Development Services and the Virginia Indigenous People’s Trust Fund.
A second bill, SB 384, passed allowing sports betting through mobile apps and websites, with the exclusion of Virginia colleges and universities’ athletic programs. If Northam signs the bill, betting could be available by the end of the year.