Virginia Governor signs casino bill into law

26 March 2019

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has signed into law a bill that paves the way for land-based casino gaming, as well as providing a route to law for sports betting in the state.

Northam (pictured) has ratified SB1126, prefiled by Senator Louise Lucas in December 2018, which allows cities to establish casinos, provided they meet a series of conditions.

Cities are eligible to host the venues if they have an unemployment rate of at least 4%, a poverty rate of 20%, and had experienced a population decline of at least 7% between 1990 and 2016.

Tribal casinos, meanwhile, would be permitted in cities with a population of at least 200,000, and in which 24% of all real estate is exempt from local property taxes. To open a casino, each local authority would need to hold a local referendum in order to gain approval from residents.

Each city can offer a single casino licence, through which the casino could offer table, dice and slot games, as well as sports betting via land-based means only.

The Virginia Lottery Board will be responsible for regulating the market, with licensees to pay a tax rate of between 13% and 15% of gross gaming revenue.

However, the bill’s passage into law does not immediately signal the beginning of casino gaming in the state. First, a Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission must conduct a review of regulatory best practices in other states, reporting to Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology and House Committee on General Laws by December 1, 2019.

The Virginia Lottery Board must then begin developing its own regulations for casinos from January 1, 2020, with a view to finalising these by June 30 that year. After that the Virginia House and Senate must reenact the provisions in the bill in the 2020 legislative session. These regulations could cover online betting and gaming, with the bill allowing including sports wagering and igaming in its definition of casino gaming.

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