The Virginia casino amendments made by Governor Ralph Northam (D) have been approved by the General Assembly, potentially clearing the way for five gaming resorts in the Old Dominion State.
Northam sent Senate Bill 36/House Bill 4 back to the legislature on April 11 with amendments.
The governor altered where tax money generated by casinos would be directed. Instead of earmarking all casino tax dollars for the Virginia General Fund, Northam amended the legislation to direct two-thirds of the associated money to education construction projects.
Two minor amendments dealt with how the voluntary exclusion program would work, and provisions for conducting criminal background checks for applicants to work in the industry.
Both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate signed off on the amendments today. The House voted 66-29, and Senate 30-9. With legislature’s support, the casino bill becomes law.
The Virginia General Assembly returned to session today to consider bills it passed that were amended by Northam.
With SB 36/HB 4 now law, five cities will be able to hold ballot referendums during the November 3 election to determine if there’s adequate local support to allow a casino in the community.
The Virginia casino package allows cities that meet certain criteria to bet on casinos. The conditions include an unemployment rate of at least five percent in 2018, a poverty rate of at least 20 percent 2017, and a population decline of at least 20 percent from 1990 to 2016.
The five cities that meet those requirements are Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Norfolk.
Come November, voters in those towns will be asked whether they want a casino in their backyards. If a simple majority backs the casino, the city will be formally allowed to move forward with such a project.
Annual gross gaming revenue (GGR) at each casino will be taxed at 18 percent up to $200 million, 23 percent on GGR between $200 million and $400 million, and 30 percent on casino win exceeding $400 million.
Also on the docket today before lawmakers in Richmond was Senate Bill 384/House Bill 896 – legislation that seeks to legalize and regulate sports betting.
The General Assembly approved Northam’s amendments to the sports betting bill. His changes dealt with how the Virginia Lottery – which will regulate sports betting – handles personal information from bettors, and also changed the $250,000 nonrefundable licensing fee to return $200,000 should the applicant not be awarded a permit.
With sports betting now legal, the Virginia Lottery has the authority to issue as many as 12 sportsbook licenses. GGR from sports betting will be taxed at 15 percent.
Sportsbooks will be allowed to offer odds on collegiate sports, but not on games involving universities located in the Commonwealth.
Along with the casino and sports betting amendments, the legislature is considering Northam’s proposal to tax games of “skill” that are currently unregulated and played throughout the state at bars, restaurants, and convenience stores.