Lawmakers representing three Virginia regions have joined forces to bring casino gambling to their constituencies and the rest of the state
During a Monday news conference, led by Senators Bill Carrico and Louise Lucas, lawmakers and officials for the cities of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth announced coordinated effort for the legalization of casino gambling in the state.
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The Councils of all three cities have approved the move recently. Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth are all looking to open casinos within city limits in a bid revive their sluggish economies and create much-needed jobs.
However, casino gambling is currently illegal in Virginia and any changes to the status quo first need to be approved by the state Legislature, which has historically been opposed to gambling expansion.
There have been multiple attempts for such expansion to get the nod from the General Assembly and they have all clearly failed to gain traction. Lawmakers pushing for casino gambling believe that their bid might succeed this time as it involves giving state residents the final say on whether casinos should open doors anywhere in Virginia.
As many as four casino legalization bills have been introduced in the state House and Senate since the 2019 legislative session began last week. All four pieces call for the legalization of gambling and authorization of casinos but only if the move is approved by residents of the localities where casinos are proposed to be built.
Casino Proposal Emerges in Portsmouth
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Bristol was the first of the above-mentioned three cities to pitch a casino plan. Last summer, a group of local developers led by United Company CEO Jim McGlothlin and Par Ventures President Clyde Stacy announced that they wanted to build a casino resort at the site of the former Bristol Mall.
Despite their recent passage of resolutions of support for the legalization of casino gambling, Danville and Portsmouth did not have any actual casino plans, or in the case of Portsmouth, not until yesterday.
Local news outlet 10 On Your Side reported Monday that a development group called Portsmouth Resorts LLC plans to build a multi-million hotel and casino resort at the site of the former Holiday Inn on the city’s waterfront. The property would feature a 140,000 gambling facility and a “first-class hotel.”
According to early projections, it would generate 2,000 new jobs during its first year of operation and 5,200 jobs by year seven. The casino resort would contribute $52.1 million in local tax revenue by the seventh year of its operations.
In comparison, the Bristol resort is expected to generate 2,000 new jobs by the end of its first year of operation and more than 5,200 by year seven, and to contribute $26.8 million in tax revenue a year after seven years of operation.
As mentioned earlier, under all bills currently in the Legislature, casinos would only be able to open doors if that has been approved by residents of the host cities via citywide referenda.
Commenting on the latest developments in Virginia’s casino legalization push, Sen. Lucas, whose constituency includes Portsmouth, said during yesterday’s news conference that she has been working for years to bring a casino to the city, which needs new jobs and a boost to its economy. The lawmaker added that casinos could be Southwest Virginia’s Amazon referring to the e-commerce giant’s recent announcement that it has selected New York City and Arlington in Northwest Virginia as the preferred locations of its two new headquarters.
Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe added that his city as well as Danville and Bristol “are gateway cities” and that the gateway to their “great Commonwealth ought to be a place where people can get a job paying a decent wage.”
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