Virginia Senate Committee Approves Casino, But Bill Dies

Even though Virginia's Senate General Laws and Technology Committee recently approved casino bill in a 7-5 vote, sponsor Senator L. Louise Lucas withdrew the bill after it became apparent the more conservative House of Delegates would not support it. Still, it was progress, since the same committee killed a casino bill last year.

The Virginia Senate General Laws and Technology Committee recently voted 7-5 to approve Senate Bill 19, which would allow a casino in the Hampton Roads area of the state, one of 11 that has no commercial or Indian casinos. The same committee killed similar legislation last year. The measure has to move through the Senate Finance Committee, gain approval on the Senate floor and survive the Republican-controlled House.

Bill sponsor state Senator L. Louise Lucas threw in the towel, however, soon after the vote. She said the House of Delegates, the more conservative house of the legislature, would not support it this year. But Lucas claims to have a champion in the House for another try at gaming legalization in the next session of the legislature.

Lucas wants to use casino tax revenue to help defray the cost of new regional road tolls.

Senate Democratic leader Richard L. Saslaw said, “Forty-nine states will have it before we get it. Maybe 48,” he noted, referencing Utah. MGM Resorts International Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Murren would agree. His company’s $925 million MGM National Harbor casino complex, set to open in mid-2016, is expected to reap half of its gaming revenue, estimated at $350 million in fiscal 2019, from Virginia. Murren said, “Virginia won’t get gaming in my lifetime. We think that Virginia and many other surrounding states will never have gaming.”