Petersburg Casino Plan In Limbo After Youngkin Adds Amendment

Written By Phil West on April 10, 2024
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who sent a measure for a Petersburg Casino back to the General Assembly

After the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation last month opening the door to a casino in Petersburg, it appeared residents in the city would be voting on the proposal in November.

Last week, however, Gov. Glenn Youngkin amended the measure, sending it back to the legislative body.

Senate Bill 628 was passed by lawmakers with a re-enactment clause, which requires lawmakers to approve the measure a second time. It gives the body a chance to reject any casino proposal approved by the city.

Youngkin stripped that provision from the bill. Because it’s an amendment and not a veto, only a simple majority is needed in the Assembly to approve the measure and make it law.

Youngkin rejects inclusion of re-enactment clause

The city of Petersburg did not fulfill the requirements to house a casino after lawmakers approved Virginia casinos in 2020. The five cities that did make the cut could ask their residents through a referendum if they wanted a casino.

After Richmond residents twice rejected a proposal to build a casino in the capital city, a faction in Petersburg lobbied for a casino to be built there. Petersburg is about 25 miles south of Richmond.

When lawmakers approved SB 628 last month and sent the measure to Youngkin’s desk, it looked like Petersburg could indeed become the fifth city to house a casino in the commonwealth. That could be in jeopardy now that Youngkin has sent the measure back to the General Assembly.

State Sen. Lashrecse Aird, a Democrat representing Petersburg, told Progress-Index that he is not concerned.

“With the removal of the re-enactment clause, this legislation moves one step closer to final approval to allow Petersburg to obtain the fifth and final license and for the citizens of Petersburg to vote in a referendum. It is especially timely ahead of interested operators presenting their visions publicly at the upcoming town hall as well.”

According to the Virginia Mercury, the re-enactment clause was not always a part of the legislation.

“The re-enactment clause was added to the bill and taken off multiple times as the legislation worked its way through the legislative process, but legislators haven’t laid out a clear explanation for why it was included in the version sent to Youngkin.”

Petersburg moving forward with casino plans

Legislators will return to Richmond April 17 to consider the governor’s amendment and sort through the contentious state budget. Meanwhile, officials in Petersburg are moving forward on casino plans. They are operating under the assumption the legislation will pass the statehouse again and Petersburg residents will be able to vote on a casino proposal in November.

Aird is overseeing an April 14 town hall meeting at the Petersburg Public Library. It will allow the residents to hear from five vendors that have submitted casino bids.

  • Bally’s
  • The Cordish Companies
  • Penn Entertainment
  • Rivers Casino/Rush Street Gaming
  • The Warrenton Group/Delaware North entertainment partnership

Rivers Casino operates the casino in Portsmouth. According to the Mercury, Rush Street Gaming has donated more than $112,000 to General Assembly members and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Three of the five cities approved for casinos in Virginia are currently operating either temporary or permanent ones. Plans to build a casino in Norfolk are on hold as city officials appear to be in a stalemate with developers.


Image Credit: Steve Helber / AP Images

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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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