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Senate subcommittee advances bill to authorize casino gaming in Richmond, Norfolk

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Virginia moves forward a bill that could allow casinos in five Virginia cities

Virginia lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that could allow casinos to open in five Virginia cities -- Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Richmond. 

The legislation requires the five localities to hold public referendums before approving casino operation licences, so voters could make the final call on whether the projects happen. While four of the five cities in the bill will hold their referendums on Election Day in November, the date for the Richmond vote is still undecided. 

“I am so, so relieved that we’ve crossed this hurdle because this has been a long time coming,” said Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), the bill’s sponsor. “It’s gonna help with jobs. It’s gonna boost the economy overall.”

In an effort to bolster economic development, the bill would authorize casino gaming in specific cities with declining populations and significant poverty and unemployment rates. Bristol’s city manager, Randall Eads, said a casino resort would help his city.

“The main driver of this is jobs. This is a huge injection of jobs into our locality and into our region for people across Southwest Virginia to be able to gain good employment,” Eads said.

According to the Virginia Department of Social Services, 20% of Bristol residents live in poverty -- double the state average.

The bill was referred to the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee Tuesday morning. A similar bill passed last year that required the state to study the impacts of legalizing gaming before this year’s legislation could be brought up by the General Assembly. 

In November, the study found that casinos could have a “positive, but modest economic impact on local economies” and produce $260 million a year in state taxes.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.