Casino Bill Moves To Virginia House
For the first time in Virginia history, a casino bill passed the state Senate, 28-12, and moved on to the House. Senate Bill 1126 would let voters in Bristol, Danville and Portsmouth determine whether they want casinos to operate there. However, referendums could not be held until 2020. Also, the state would keep 90 percent of casino tax revenue.
In addition, the bill would direct the Virginia Lottery Board to develop and implement casino gambling regulations by June 20, 2020; the Lottery Board could not issue any gaming licenses before July 1, 2020. The measure also would require the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to prepare a study of other states’ casino gambling laws and report to Senate and House committees by November 1.
The original legislation proposed by state Senators Bill Carrico Louise Lucas recommended a 10 percent tax rate. However, state Senator Tommy Norment changed the measure to include a tax rate of 14 percent of adjusted gross receipts in a casino’s first year of operation, followed by a 13 percent tax rate on gross receipts of $200 million or less, 14 percent on $200-$300 million and 15 percent on $300 million or more.
Thirty percent of tax revenue proceeds would go to transportation projects; 30 percent to school construction; 10 percent to teacher raises; 10 percent to limit increases in tuition and fees at colleges and universities; 10 percent to casino host cities or counties; 9 percent to tourism; and 1 percent to a problem gambling fund the measure would establish.
Backers of the proposed $250 million Bristol Resort and Casino project at the vacant Bristol Mall expressed support for the legislation, although they had hoped a public referendum could be held this fall. In a statement, developers Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy said, “We are pleased that the Senate showed strong, bipartisan support today in passing SB 1126. This important legislation provides a roadmap for how Virginia can provide a significant economic development boost to those regions of the Commonwealth in desperate need of more jobs and additional revenue. As this bill continues through the legislative process, we will work with the House and Senate to make these projects a reality.”
Bristol City Manager Randy Eads cautioned, “There is still a lot of time left in the session for there to be additional changes with this version of the bill. I will continue to communicate with legislators and monitor it as things move through the House.”
Embattled Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed biennial budget includes $175,000 to fund a casino study. House Bill 2321, introduced by Del. Christopher Peace, would establish a 15-member Gaming Study Commission to analyze the state’s existing gaming industry, expanded gambling, sports betting, online gambling, tribal gambling and horseracing, with a January 1, 2020 deadline.