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What the planned legalization of gambling in Virginia means

slot machine
(© Maridav – stock.adobe.com)

The State of Virginia has relatively restrictive gambling laws. For years betting on sports is only allowed within private residences. Likewise, greyhound racing and casinos are prohibited. Nevertheless, there has been a growing clamor for amendments in the Virginia State Lottery and Gambling Laws. If the proposed amendments sail through, it will be possible to play Nitro Casino  games at a land-based casino rather than online, as it’s currently the case.

Already, Virginia lawmakers have passed legislation that paves the way for the construction of five casinos across the state. Proponents argue that this will provide an economic boost to the state and cushion it against some of the side-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the legalization of land-based casinos in the state couldn’t have come at a better time.

Why bailouts may be needed

No industry has been as severely affected by the COVID-9 pandemic as the gaming industry. Thanks to the lockdowns and similar restrictions that were imposed for much of 2020, most players in the cash-dependent industry struggled to stay afloat. Besides, stock prices of nearly all casino operators have tanked in the past year, including those that are eyeing the largely untapped Virginia market.

Already, questions are being raised concerning the industry’s ability to finance the much-touted casino resorts in Virginia. The state intends to charge a $15 million licensing fee, which most gaming operators eyeing to move to Virginia can raise. Nonetheless, lobbyists for the gaming industry are pressing the federal government for bailouts to set up shop in Virginia.

Whether the ongoing upheavals in the gaming industry will extend to Virginia remains to be seen. Even so, proponents of gambling legalization argue that by the time the five resorts in the state are up and running, the industry will have recovered from its slump. Furthermore, they say that some planned casinos are backed by wealthy investors who can weather an economic slump better than publicly traded casino operators.

Indeed, setting up the planned casinos requires a significant financial investment. Nevertheless, the returns are typically instant. In states like Nevada, where gambling is legal, the industry has contributed significantly to economic growth. So, although operators’ short-term goal should be stabilizing their existing operations as they set up shop in Virginia, they are guaranteed a return on investment in the long run.

How has the bidding process fared?

Some operators who are eyeing the Virginia market have complained about the current legislation, claiming that it doesn’t provide a competitive bidding process for licenses. Already, three of the cities that will host the casino resorts (Bristol, Norfolk, and Portsmouth) have either informal or formal agreements with potential operators.

On its part, Danville is still considering proposals from seven potential casino operators, while two operators have expressed interest in the planned Richmond casino resort. It’s still unclear whether the Virginia state will amend the casino bill to allow a more open bidding process.

What does the future hold?

There’s a lot of excitement regarding the legalization of gambling in Virginia, especially the setting up of the five casino resorts. Besides generating income for the state, thousands of locals will get employed at the planned resorts, thus providing the much-needed economic upturn.

Indeed, it will take a while before the casino resort cities reach the legendary status of known casino havens such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Nonetheless, the legalization of gambling in itself is a step in the right direction and a pointer of things to come.

The gray area in the current gambling law

Before Virginia’s gambling laws got amended, many gray areas provided loopholes for illegal operators. For instance, some establishments had cornholes, pool tables, and consoles that resembled slot machines. Operators argued that these weren’t contravening the state’s gambling laws since they aren’t games of chance but skill.

The legal gray area saw thousands of such equipment installed in different establishments around the state. The operators took advantage of the fact that Virginia laws didn’t categorize such equipment as slot machines or gambling devices. The thin line between illegal and legal gambling in the state saw many operators and players finding themselves on a collision path with the law. However, with the legalization of gambling in the state, this will be a thing of the past.

Final words

Casinos have always caused an economic upturn wherever they are set, and the situation won’t be any different when the planned casinos in Virginia start to operate. The state has woken up to the fact that casinos could provide the much-needed boost when the economy is struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Story by Sami Abdel