Virginia Commission Hires Gaming Consultant Per New Law
In March, Virginia lawmakers passed a bill to expand gambling in the state, though not to be confused with West Virginia that voted shortly thereafter to legalize online poker and casino games.
Virginia passed a law that allowed the state to expand beyond its lottery and horse racing action, one that authorizes casino gaming in cities that vote to approve casinos, two tribal gaming facilities, and the option for sports betting and online gaming.
The state legislature made some changes as the bill moved along, but it took less than three months to send it to the governor, and he did sign it. And with that signature, Virginia decided to take a deep dive into the world of gaming for the sake of revenue and tourism.
And less than two months later, a legislative commission named the private consulting firm that will conduct the study and provide the analysis necessary to move forward on that gaming expansion.
The Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission has selected a Colorado-based firm to conduct its study of casino-style gambling in Virginia. The move is the next step for a possible casino in Bristol. https://t.co/jwZs000yeX
— WJHL (@WJHL11) May 14, 2019
How a Bill Becomes a Law
On December 28, 2018, Virginia State Senator L. Louise Lucas pre-filed SB.1126 as her gambling expansion bill. The Committee on General Laws and Technology passed it on January 21, 2019, and the Finance Committee did the same nine days later, sending it to the Senate floor.
The first days of February involved a few amendments to SB.1126, but the Senate then passed it by a 28-12 vote on February 4.
The House Rules Committee then passed the bill and sent it to the House, where it passed by a vote of 80-17 on February 13. A few changes pushed SB.1126 back and forth to both houses of the legislature for final approvals, and it passed.
Governor Ralph Northam then signed it into law on March 22.
A Comprehensive Law
The law essentially authorized casino gaming in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which will be regulated by the Virginia Lottery Board. That body must establish and begin to implement regulations by January 2020 and complete that process by July 2020.
Casinos were authorized in Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Norfolk, as well as two to be handled by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. Each city that wants a casino must authorize and pass a referendum before January 2021.
Importantly, the law defined casino gambling as including traditional casino slots and table games, as well as sports betting and online gaming.
But before any of the land-based, sports, or online gambling takes shape, the bill required that the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission conduct a review of the laws of other states in order to best determine the trajectory of the establishment of it in Virginia.
The report from that commission would be due by December 1, 2019, deliverable to the Chairpersons of the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology and the House Committee on General Laws.
Research Firm Hired
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission announced this month that it chose a Colorado-based firm to conduct the gambling study for Virginia.
The Innovation Group is a global research and advisory firm that focuses on gaming, entertainment, hospitality, leisure, and tourism around the world. The company’s research has been associated with more than $100 billion in investment decisions in more than 80 countries, and its client list has included tribes to governments, banks to developers.
The Bristol Herald Courier quoted Joe McMahon, the company’s principal legislative analyst, about the plans. “The Innovation Group will analyze several scenarios for the potential expansion of gaming in the state,” he said, “including different types of gaming, including casinos, sports wagering and online casino offerings.”
The company will work with the commission to examine various forms of legalized gaming in other states to determine the best structure and policies for Virginia. They will collect information to estimate the potential revenue for the state and gambling operators, the most effective tax rates, and the best locations for land-based casinos.
Results are due by December 1, but an expedited completion of the study could help prepare the Virginia Lottery Board to establish its regulations in accordance with its assigned timetable.
It still remains to be seen if online poker or casino games will be included in the first set of regulations and plans for the state to move forward with gambling expansion in 2020.