Virginia is a divided state on a proposal to expand legalized gaming following a study which predicts proposed gambling venues to have “a positive, but modest, economic impact on local economies.” “Gaming in the Commonwealth 2019” reported that resort casinos are viable in five cities: Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond. The study also indicated that the five properties in total are projected to earn about $970 million in yearly net gaming revenue. The five Virginia casinos would also generate about $260 million a year in state gaming taxes.
It is expected that each of the Virginia casinos would hire at least 1,000 employees to staff a venue with a median wage of around $33,000 a year. Wagering on athletic events could lead to as much as $55 million in yearly gaming tax revenue. Online casino gaming could lead to about $84 million a year.
The study further revealed that opening a brick and mortar casino in northern Virginia would increase statewide gaming tax revenue by an estimated additional $155 million.
However, the report cautioned that if casinos were developed in North Carolina and Tennessee, Danville and Bristol would be vulnerable from the competition.
Apart from the lottery, gaming for charitable causes and betting on historical horse races are the only forms of gambling allowed in Virginia. Reports from casino.org indicate that residents now bet over $1 billion a year on the three categories. That leads to approximately $700 million in revenue for state programs, such as for public schools. The report calls for a competitive selection process by which to select which owners/operators will be chosen for the casinos. The Pamunkey Indians also expressed concerns to build a planned $700 million casino if they acquire land in Norfolk.
“The Pamunkey Tribe has been marginalized for centuries and deserve some protections as they seek to gain financial independence and improve the lives of their members,” tribal spokesman Jay Smith told the Times-Dispatch. He said recommendations in the study “do not sufficiently protect Virginia’s only tribe with federal gaming rights.”