Casino Regulations Are Ready, But Is The Commonwealth Of Virginia?

Posted on July 22, 2021 - Last Updated on July 26, 2021

How quickly Virginia casino regulations proceed from here is now in the hands of a “lame duck” governor. The Virginia Lottery did its job and created a set of regulations to guide the new industry.

While the Lottery doesn’t seem too optimistic that current Gov. Ralph Northam will act on the matter before he leaves office, there is good news for people in four VA cities looking forward to casinos in their neighborhoods. For Bristol residents, though, not all the news is good.

Virginia casino regulations moving on

On Wednesday, the VA Lottery board voted to advance a set of proposed permanent casino regulations. When finalized, they will replace the emergency rules the same body authorized in February.

The approval process now requires the state’s governor to ascent to their completion. After that, a 60-day comment period will precede another vote for final approval. It’s not clear how quickly all that will take place right now.

According to Bianca Marais of WJHL, Virginians might not want to hold their breath. In fact, the board estimates that final approval won’t happen until May 2022. Why? Because the Lottery expects the next governor to play a role in the approval.

“There will be an administration change in mid-January when the new governor will come in and I’m hoping that the process will remain smooth and not be too disrupted,” said Amy Dilworth, General Counsel for the VA Lottery. “I can’t predict exactly how long it will take because there’s a new governor, it’s during general assembly session and the governor does not have a deadline.”

The Lottery feels that the rules should pass muster before the governor, regardless of who that is in the next term.

“The Lottery’s Gaming Compliance Department and Office of General Counsel have been diligently working to set up the regulatory and licensing framework to ensure casino gaming in Virginia is secure and transparent,” Virginia Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall stated. “In this role, we see the Lottery as the public’s watchdog, confirming that the law and regulations are followed, and the integrity of casino gambling is protected.”

While these rules await further clearance, the Lottery can get to work reviewing license applications from casino partners in four VA cities. In Bristol, the wait might be the most excruciating.

Lottery ready to dig into casino applications

Although the application period technically began in April, the Lottery was busy working on getting these regs out until now. Now, the Lottery has retained the services of 22 investigators to consider casino license applications.

They should receive the entirety of those soon from the casino partners in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. The gambling companies in league with those municipalities are:

It isn’t clear how long license approvals will take. What seems clear is this shouldn’t affect a coming referendum on a Richmond casino. The Lottery re-stated it expects Richmond voters to go to the polls in November on that issue.

If the Lottery board proves astute in its estimation of the time to finalize rules, there’s no rush to process applications. These casinos wouldn’t be able to actually start offering gambling until the regs are final, even with licenses in hand.

Thus, the hope of a Hard Rock “mini-casino” in Bristol opening soon becomes even more of a specter. The Seminole Tribe brand wanted to open a temporary facility later this year. As this process has gone on, though, that’s become increasingly unlikely.

The good news, though, is that this stage of the process is done. Even if construction on these casinos doesn’t begin until the middle of next year, that’s now closer to reality.

Photo by Yuriy Kirsanov | Dreamstime.com
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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