Virginia Governor Denies Petersburg Casino Bill Linked to Potomac Yard Development

Posted on: March 20, 2024, 12:39h. 

Last updated on: March 25, 2024, 07:25h.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) says he won’t tie the Petersburg casino bill that’s on his desk to his pushing of a $2 billion sports arena in Alexandria known as the Potomac Yard Entertainment District.

Virginia Petersburg casino Potomac Yard
A rendering of the Potomac Yard Entertainment District with Reagan International Airport in the distance. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) says he won’t tie the Petersburg casino bill to the controversial sports complex in Alexandria. (Image: Monumental Sports & Entertainment/Getty/

The Virginia General Assembly sent legislation to the governor earlier this month requesting that Petersburg be qualified to consider a commercial gaming resort. The bill was championed by Senate President Pro Tempore L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), one of the most powerful Democratic lawmakers in the commonwealth.

Youngkin has remained uncommitted to the Petersburg casino push despite the governor launching his “Partnership for Petersburg” program designed to improve the city’s economic health and the lives of residents.

We’ll see,” Youngkin said when asked by The Progress-Index about whether he will sign Senate Bill 628.

SB 628 would allow Petersburg to field competitive bids for a casino resort development. Once city officials pick a scheme, the proposal would go before local voters. A simple majority would need to lend their backing to the initiative.

Potential Roadblocks

Legislative efforts to designate Petersburg for a casino began after Richmond voters first rejected a casino during the November 2021 election. Capital city residents voted against a proposed casino for a second time during the November 2023 election.

Richmond’s opposition to a Las Vegas-style casino resort prompted lawmakers to move the casino license south some 25 miles to Petersburg. The legislature got behind the drive after Lucas lent her support.

Lucas, however, is one of the most outspoken opponents of the Potomac Yard Entertainment District, which would become the new home of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals. Youngkin wants to spend taxpayer money to help billionaire Ted Leonsis and Monumental Sports & Entertainment relocate his professional sports teams from Washington, D.C.’s Capital One Arena to Alexandria.

Speculation has recently surfaced that Youngkin might use the Petersburg casino bill as a bargaining chip for the sports complex. Unless Lucas lifts her opposition to Potomac Yard, the governor might not sign SB 628.

Youngkin rejected those claims this week.

I’m not holding anything as part of a negotiation on the Potomac Yard development,” Younkin told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s a spectacular project. It stands on its own.

“It’s compelling for the entire commonwealth, and therefore, we should do it,” Youngkin declared.

Youngkin Questions Revote

 Youngkin claims he won’t take the Petersburg casino bill hostage until he gets his way with the Potomac Yard undertaking. But the governor did raise concerns as to why House lawmakers included an amendment to the legislation that requires it to undergo a second vote during a “subsequent regular or special election.” The governor also wants to meet with Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham, city officials, and the community to gauge their support for a casino enterprise.

Why was there a reenactment clause placed on [the bill]? What does the mayor think? What do the city councilmembers think?” Youngkin asked. “I’m digging in and speaking to folks particularly engaged in this as to why the legislation is where it is.”

Parham and the Petersburg City Council have already publicly declared their backing.

“I ask for [the governor’s] support,” Parham said recently. “The people of Petersburg are really excited to see this move through.”