Virginia General Assembly Adjourns After Passing New Gaming Bills

March 12, 2024
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The Virginia General Assembly wrapped up its 60-day session on Saturday after passing several gaming-related measures, including bills that allow data centers in the state to host lottery games and removing Richmond as an eligible casino host city.
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The Virginia General Assembly wrapped up its 60-day session on Saturday (March 9) after passing several gaming-related measures, including bills that allow data centers in the state to host lottery games and removing Richmond as an eligible casino host city.

The state legislature also gave final approval to a bill to regulate controversial skill-game machines prior to adjournment. The final version of Senate Bill 212 passed the Senate 31-9 and was approved by the House of Delegates by a vote of 49-43.

Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin now has the option of signing the measures passed by lawmakers, amending the bills, or vetoing them.

The legislature will then have an opportunity to consider any amendments or vetoes of bills when it briefly reconvenes on April 17 in Richmond to finalize a state budget.

Currently, Youngkin has approved 64 bills passed by the General Assembly but vetoed eight and amended 12. The legislature can override a veto with a two-thirds majority, but with Democrats holding a 51-49 edge over Republicans in the House of Delegates, they are unlikely to be able to garner enough votes to do so.

In addition to the skill-games legislation, there were several other gaming-related bills approved by the General Assembly this session.

On Friday (March 8), Youngkin signed House Bill 843, a measure that goes into effect on July 1 to redistribute tax revenues from pari-mutuel wagering and historical horseracing in Virginia.

A separate bill setting limits on local casino ballot referendums will also be sent to the governor for his consideration. House Bill 525, as approved by lawmakers, amends the state’s 2020 casino law to prohibit any eligible city where a referendum fails from holding another referendum for three years.

The measure was introduced after Richmond voters defeated a casino referendum in November for a second time. Voters previously rejected a casino in 2021.

In 2020, Virginia lawmakers approved legislation allowing five casinos to be built in the state if the projects first secured voter approval. Casinos in Bristol, Portsmouth and Danville have already opened, with a fourth in Norfolk still in development and construction set to begin this year.

A separate bill to shift the potential fifth Virginia casino from Richmond 24 miles south to Petersburg cleared the General Assembly prior to adjournment on Saturday.

Senate Bill 628 passed the House of Delegates on Thursday by a 78-18 vote. The Senate followed by approving House amendments to the bill through a vote of 24-16.

The House amendment means the legislation to allow a local vote on a Petersburg casino will only become effective if approved again by lawmakers next year or in a special session called by the governor. 

Youngkin has expressed support for moving the fifth casino location to Petersburg.

It is also expected that Youngkin will sign Senate Bill 541 into law. That bill, approved in late February, simply removes Richmond as an eligible city to host a casino in the state, but without designating Petersburg in its place.

Another bill passed by lawmakers this year was Senate Bill 397, which requires licensed lottery retailers and casinos to prominently display a sign with the state tip line for illegal gaming. SB 397 was communicated to the governor on Monday (March 11), who now has until April 8 to decide whether to sign or veto the measure.

House Joint Resolution 10, which continues until November 30, 2025 a joint subcommittee studying the feasibility of establishing the Virginia Gaming Commission to regulate all gaming in the state, is another measure that lawmakers approved. An amendment to House Bill 30, the two-year state budget released late Saturday, would set aside $15,000 a year to cover per-diem and reimbursements for subcommittee members.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Youngkin also received Senate Bill 540, a one-page bill approved by lawmakers that would allows data centers located in Virginia to host lottery games that are authorized in another state.

Delegate Michelle Maldonado, a Democrat and sponsor of identical measure House Bill 991, made it clear prior to SB 540’s passage last month in the House that the measure has nothing to do with creating exemptions for illegal gambling activity.

“It is a simple technology bill,” Maldonado said. “Lottery operators are looking to migrate data to the cloud environment, which is more efficient than managing servers in individual states. Similar safe harbors exist in the [law] for legal lottery games and sports betting.”

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