Casino bill takes on the House

February 7, 2019

If the Senate’s efforts pay off, casinos may be coming to Virginia soon. Legislation introduced by Senator Louise Lucas that could open the door for casino gambling has passed the Senate this week and will now be considered by the House of Delegates.

SB 1126 (Lucas) authorizes five localities – Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Richmond – to hold a referendum on the question of allowing casino gaming in their cities.  Each locality may hold such a referendum in the Fall of 2019, and the Commonwealth may in turn grant a license beginning July 1, 2020.

SB 1126 also directs the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to conduct a review of casino gaming laws in other states and report its findings to the Chairs of the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee and the House General Laws Committee on or before November 1, 2019.  None of the eligible localities may hold a referendum on gaming until this report is published.  Additionally, no locality may hold such a referendum after January 21, 2021.

SB 1126 only passed the Senate floor after extensive amendments were made, most notably related to taxes on adjusted gross receipts and stipulations on how those tax proceeds would be spent.  While the original legislation called for a 10 percent tax on adjusted gross receipts, the amended version that passed the Senate called for a rate of 14 percent in the first year, and then each year thereafter, the rate would be 13 percent for a licensed operator with less than $200 million annual adjusted gross receipts; 14 percent for a licensed operator with at least $200 million but less than $300 million annual adjusted gross receipts; and 15 percent for a licensed operator with at least $300 million annual adjusted gross receipts.

Proceeds from this tax would be used to fund several things, including transportation projects, school construction, teacher pay raises, and tourism marketing.  Notably, 10 percent of the revenue shall be returned to the county or city in which they were collected on a pro rata basis.

SB 1126 passed the Senate by a vote of 28-12 and has now been referred to the House Rules Committee.

VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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