Virginia Casinos

Virginia will soon be home to at least four casinos. After the residents of Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth voted to allow casino locations to be built inside their city limits, preparations for construction began in earnest.

These referenda became possible after the Virginia Assembly and Gov. Ralph Northam came to an agreement in April 2020. The new law provided for the possibility of casinos in Virginia cities that met certain criteria.

Along with the four cities, Richmond may also have a casino in its future. The capital city chose to delay its referendum until 2021, so it will be a year behind the others. However, if the results of the first four votes are any indication, Richmond will also soon be a casino gambling city.

Casino operators such as Caesars Entertaiment and Hard Rock have entered into agreements to build branded casino locations in some of these cities. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe will also work to build its own venue.

In essence, the only thing left to do is build the properties and turn on the slot machines. Virginia should see its first casinos toward the end of 2022 or sometime in 2023.

In the meantime, Virginians can avail themselves of the newly-launched sports betting. Virginia became an active sports betting state in January 2021.

VA casino update

UPDATED: June 9, 2021

Richmond has chosen its preferred casino operator. Officials selected the proposal from Urban One and Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, which is the owner of Virginia’s Colonial Downs and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums. The $600 million project beat out a competing proposal from The Cordish Cos. and four other hopefuls.

If voters then green-light the project with November’s Election Day referendum, Richmond will join four other VA cities that overwhelmingly voted in favor of casino projects in 2020.

VA preferred casino partners

VA Casino Host CityPreferred Casino PartnerPotential Sports Betting Platform
BristolHard Rock InternationalHard Rock Sportsbook
DanvilleCaesars EntertainmentCaesars Sportsbook
RichmondUrban One/Peninsula Pacific EntertainmentTBD
PortsmouthRush Street GamingBetRivers Sportsbook
NorfolkPamunkey Indian TribeTBD

VA casino host cities

Recently passed legislation allows for casino gambling in five cities:

  • Bristol
  • Danville
  • Norfolk
  • Portsmouth
  • Richmond

Those cities were chosen based on criteria set forth by the legislature, including:

  • 40% of the city’s real estate is exempt from local property taxes
  • 4% higher unemployment rate than that of the state
  • 20% poverty rate
  • 20% population decrease from the previous year

Voters in all of the cities except Richmond formally approved the projects during the 2020 election cycle. They simply needed half of the votes, but each casino referendum passed by a convincing 2-1 margin.

Richmond voters will decide the fate of a casino in the Virginia capital city during 2021 Election Day.

Virginia casino launch timeline

DateEvent
June 1Preliminary review of casino partners begins.
July 15Lottery Board meeting
Aug. 14Deadline to order referendum with host cities.
Nov. 3General Election
Nov. 16Secretary of State certifies election results.
Late DecemberHost cities certified and notified the Lottery of its preferred casino partner.
Feb. 3Casino regulations finalized and applications for casino gaming licenses become available.

Opening the first VA casino

Currently, the five host cities have received approval of their casino partners from the VA Lottery, the regulatory agency for gambling in the state.

In addition, four of the cities passed measures on the November 2020 that allowed voters to decide if they would allow the construction inside their towns. Each referendum passed overwhelmingly, and plans are moving forward.

Richmond residents will have to one more year to voice their opinion on the matter. The state capital elected to delay its referendum until 2021, so developments there will be delayed for a year.

At present, regulators are deeply engaged in writing the regulations to govern casino gambling in the state. Those regulations were due in April 2021, but they came early on Feb. 3. Now, the Lottery has up to one year after receiving an application to issue its decision.

VA casino tax revenue

Virginia, and the rest of the country, for that matter, is experiencing some financial challenges as its economy emerges from the pandemic-forced shutdowns.

Needless to say, revenue for the state is an important topic. That’s why casino gambling’s impending arrival in 2022 or 2023 cannot come too quickly.

When VA casino gambling finally does launch, however, it is estimated to provide $262 million in tax revenue.

Casino revenues will be taxed on adjusted gross revenue according to the following schedule:

  • 18% on the first $200 million, 6% of which is designated to the host city
  • 23% on the amount exceeding $200 million and not exceeding $400 million, 7% of which is designated to the host city
  • 30% on the amount exceeding $400 million, 8% of which is designated to the host city

The big beneficiary of casino tax revenue outside of the host cities is the public fund supporting school infrastructure projects including school construction and upgrades. It receives the remaining funds after the cities are paid, minus:

  • 1% by a VA Indian tribe operator to the Virginia Indigenous People’s Trust Fund
  • 0.8% to the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund
  • 0.2% to the Family and Children’s Trust Fund

History of gambling in VA

Some form of gambling in Virginia has been legal since 1973 when charitable gambling became legal.

Today, charitable gaming includes several forms of bingo and poker. Its 1.125% tax generates more than $265 million per year for the state.

In 1988, the Virginia Lottery began operating in the state. Today, more than 100 games are offered by the VA Lottery, including the multi-state Powerball and Mega Millions draw games.

The state has more than 5,000 retail locations, and all profits (roughly 30% of ticket sales) are designated for education. In 2020, the Lottery generated $595 million for schools.

One year after the introduction of the Virginia Lottery, horse racing in Virginia became legal.

The market was averaging about $100 million per year in revenue from 2000 until 2014, when Colonial Downs was closed due to a conflict between the owners and breeders.

Colonial Downs reopened in 2019, but the live racing schedule was ultimately canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, officials from the Vinton racetrack are planning a full 2021 season with live spectators. Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock is also planning the same for its fall season of harness racing.

In 2016, several daily fantasy sports sites received licenses form the state. And in 2018, HB1609 approved historical horse racing machines (HHR) that allow bettors to wager on previously run races.

In May 2018, the federal ban on sports betting was lifted by the US Supreme Court. It started the more than two-year journey toward legalizing sports betting and casino gambling in Virginia.

So far, 2021 is already a banner year for gambling in Old Dominion. The launch of sports betting in January is nothing short of a boon for the state.

Casinos are expected to arrive sometime in 2022 or 2023. So, Virginia is well on its way to becoming a full-service gambling state.

VA casino FAQs

What type of casino games can customers expect at Virginia casinos?

Customers can expect casino games similar to those found in any casino, including poker, blackjack, slot machines, and craps.

Ultimately, it is the Lottery Board that will authorize all casino gaming. Additionally, the law allows for on-premise mobile casino gambling.

Will casino gambling expand to more cities in the future?

The current law only allows for casino gambling in the five designated host cities. Any further expansion would require additional legislation.

Are there resources to help someone with a gambling problem?

Yes. The law establishes the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund which will provide resources to help someone with a gambling problem. Call the Virginia Problem Gambling Helpline at (888) 532-3500.

Why is it important that players play at legal and regulated sites?

The Virginia Lottery is the regulatory agency that oversees Virginia casinos. It establishes the regulations for safe casino play and ensures players’ funds are protected.

Additionally, the Lottery Board is responsible for:

  • Game testing
  • Investigation of license applicants
  • Auditing of the financials of the state’s casino gambling operations
  • Maintaining self-exclusion programs in Virginia
  • Providing problem gambling resources