Virginia governor sees potential in legalized gambling
Virginia still has a long way to go before gambling is fully legalized in the state, but progress has definitely been made over the past few months.
It is currently only possible to gamble legally in Virginia via charitable gaming, the state lottery and horse racing, but moves are afoot to radically change the gambling landscape in the region.
The success of a huge casino resort in Maryland has left Virginia’s authorities casting envious glances towards their neighbors.
Calls for the rules to be amended are growing stronger every day, so read on as we assess the current legal situation relating to gambling in Virginia.
New bill sets the ball rolling
Gov. Ralph Northam signed Virginia’s casino bill back in March 2019, but despite his support there are plenty of hurdles still to be jumped.
While players can currently access real money online slots from the offshore sites listed at realmoneyslots.info, Virginia has not yet authorized the opening of casinos within the state.
The SB1126 legislation empowers the Lottery Board to create a structure that will eventually allow casinos to open in Virginia.
Gambling operators would be able to launch new venues in the state, while online casinos would be able to establish the same range of gaming services on the internet.
SB1126 states that licenses to operate will not be issued until July 2020, giving the various interested parties plenty of opportunity to thrash out the finer details.
With investors eager to pursue the $250 million Bristol Resort and Casino project in the state, the governor has recognized the impact the new gambling laws could have in Virginia.
“I think there is the potential for it – obviously, we’re going to take it one step at the time,” Northam said.
“If that’s something Virginians want to participate in, why not look at doing it here in Virginia, rather than those resources going to other states?”
Loopholes remain a gray area
While Virginia’s gambling laws currently ban online gambling, this is only applicable to operators who are based inside state borders.
Neither the state laws or the federal government mention that offshore gambling is illegal, opening the door for Virginia residents to sign-up for accounts.
Another loophole that has caused plenty of confusion surrounds slot machines, with some companies arguing that their products are ‘skill games’ rather than games of chance.
This led to the introduction of thousands of the machines across the state, sparking an outcry from police who believed that they broke the law.
Discussions earlier in the year with Commonwealth’s Attorney Joseph Platania, determined that the machines were lawful, but the goalposts have since been moved.
Manufacturers and establishments were instructed to remove the games within 30 days, leading to Platania coming in for plenty of criticism.
With more than $300,000 generated for the state in tax revenue by the machines it is unsurprising that the governor is keen to take things down a different path.
Revenues elsewhere driving Northam’s vision
Neighboring Maryland is already cashing in as a result of legalizmgm natioing casinos, with its six venues generating almost $150m in revenues during July 2019.
The spectacular MGM National Harbor accounted for $60.8m of that total, a year-on-year rise of over four percent.
Various state programs will benefit financially from the income, with Maryland’s Education Trust Fund alone benefiting to the tune of more than $46m.
Recent financial results from the Virginia Lottery are also likely to have further spiked Northam’s interest in pushing new gambling laws through as soon as he can.
The lottery reported its biggest ever year for the period ending June 30, with sales reaching almost $2.3bn and profits totalling around $650m.
“Students and teachers in every part of our Commonwealth continue to benefit from the Virginia Lottery’s record-high proceeds, and with an increase in the Lottery per Pupil Allocation, our school districts have more flexibility to use Lottery profits to meet their diverse needs,” said Northam.
“With this funding we are not only supporting a variety of important programs in our public schools, we are also making critical investments in our young Virginians and expanding opportunities for them to succeed.”
Legalizing gambling across the board would allow Virginia to pump even more resources into community and education programs and would undoubtedly help the state to flourish even further.
Article by Michael J Black