Virginia General Assembly to Decide on Casino Referendum in Petersburg

After the Virginia State Senate’s Finance and Appropriations Committee cracked the gambling bill in February 2023, the officials of the city of Petersburg have officially referred to the Virginia General Assembly hoping to pass the amended bill that would allow a referendum on casino development. As The Progress Index reports, the city will have a support of influential lawmakers and the aid of other legislation available for negotiations during the 2024 General Assembly session.

Senate Bill 628:

Accor ssbet77 ding to the source, Senate Bill 628 amends casino host city requirements in a way that would make Petersburg fit for the casino approval. In addition to the population, tax exemption, and poverty rate requirements, the legislation reportedly adds a min 13% unemployment rate requirement. In the reference year 2020, the data of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reportedly show that Petersburg meets the requirement with a 21.1% unemployment rate.

The Progress Index reports that the main proponents of the bill in the Senate are Sen. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, and Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee chair Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. According to the source, the addition of Lucas increases chances to pass the bill in the 2024 session. As she was previously opposed to the city’s inclusion in the casino race, her current support comes from the influential position of the chair of the powerful Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee. As reported, the Committee also opposed the bill in previous two sessions.

Petersburg Joined in 2021:

In 2019, the General Assembly approved five cities – excluding Petersburg – as potential host cities for casino development. As reported,  these cities held a referendum on the respective casino developments. After the voters of the city of Richmond rejected casino operations in the city two times, Petersburg has been included in consideration since 2021. However, the subsequent efforts to land the casino have repeatedly failed.

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According to the source, the efforts for Petersburg’s referendum included Del. Kim Taylor, who was re-elected to the House last November to reportedly  support the Senate measure. Taylor reportedly said: ”Having a single introductory bill allows energies to be focused in one place on one bill.” She added that she will support the opportunity for voters ”to make their voices heard on this matter.”  As reported, Senate Bill 628 will be first heard by the Senate General Laws & Technology Committee and then Senate F&A. The fact that Lucas is a member of the Committee and the chair of the Senate F&A gives hopes to bill supporters.

Supporting Legislation:

The Petersburg city officials are surely among them. They lean on the city’s legal suitability and influential support from lawmakers to host the fourth casino resort in the state. Their hopes are reportedly boosted by the legislation proposed after Richmond was defeated in the 2021 ballot. The bill introduced by Sen. Bryce Reeves ”would prohibit any potential host city where a casino referendum has failed from voting on it again for three years after the unsuccessful referendum,” as The Progress Index reports, thus making room for the long-expected referendum in Petersburg.