The Commonwealth of Virginia recently enacted Senate Bill 1126, which ostensibly authorizes "casino gaming" in certain locations within the state. Notably, "casino gaming" is defined in the legislation to include sports betting and online gaming as well as more traditional in-person casino games such as poker, blackjack, and roulette.

Casino gaming also would be limited to cities that meet certain very specific criteria relating to poverty rates, unemployment, and population decreases, among other factors. Effectively, the criteria would limit casino gaming to Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Norfolk with Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth available to commercial operators and Richmond and Norfolk limited to the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

However, the legislation provides only limited details on how casino gaming would be structured in Virginia. Effectively, the legislation initiates a lengthy process that may result in casino gaming at the permitted locations but only after (i) the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission releases a report on casino gaming laws in other states due by December 1, 2019, (ii) the Virginia Lottery Board promulgates regulations to implement casino gaming by June 30, 2020, and (iii) the legislation is reenacted by the 2020 Session of the General Assembly. After the state completes each of these steps, each of the eligible cities still must hold a referendum on whether casino gaming may be permitted within the city limits. This referendum must be no later than January 1, 2021.

Ultimately, we do not expect any casino licenses to be made available earlier than July 1, 2020, but the legislation remains a significant step toward the legalization and regulation of casino gaming in Virginia.

Ballard Spahr's Gaming Group helps guide clients through the complex network of federal, state, tribal, and local gaming laws, and represents companies who do business with casinos and must comply with the industry's complex regulatory structure.

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