The House Always Wins . . .

Released: Thursday, March 21, 2019

In a disappointing (but perhaps unsurprising) move at the very end of regular session, majorities from both parties voted to advance the concept of casino gambling in Virginia. Positioned as an economic driver, the bill narrowly defines which cities can potentially open casinos based on a convoluted set of criteria. Specifics include date-specific population loss, real estate taxation ratios, proximity to a state (Tennessee) that passed a “Border Region Retail Tourism Development District,” and unemployment and poverty rates.

The bill carves out five cities: Bristol, Portsmouth, Danville, Richmond, and Norfolk. Investors would be awarded a single, geographically protected casino monopoly in each locality by the Virginia Lottery Board—quite the lucrative deal for whomever gets these licenses (including the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, who is already favored for the Richmond and Norfolk projects). It’s a terrible deal for the people who live in those areas and will have to deal with increased crime and other negative effects.

Before the first casino can be built, however, four conditions must ostensibly be met. First, a study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) must be completed by December 1, 2019. Second, a local referendum must pass for each casino license awarded by January 1, 2021. Third, the bill must pass the General Assembly again during the 2020 Session. And last, investors must be willing to lay out a minimum of $200 million per project for “land, facilities, infrastructure, equipment, or furnishings” to get their precious monopoly license.   

March 26th is the deadline for Governor Northam to reject or sign the bill. Assuming the governor signs this disgraceful piece of legislation, hopefully we can stop it at the local level in one or more cities and perhaps keep it from being reenacted in the 2020 session. Indeed, elections do have consequences, and one of the bill’s advocates is not running for reelection this year. Thank you for your prayers and support of our legislative efforts and for telling everyone you know about government-granted sweetheart deals that would undermine our commonwealth!