RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Some state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle made a joint pitch Monday, to bring casino gambling to three Virginia cities. They want to pass a bill to hold referendums in Portsmouth, Danville and Bristol to let voters there decide on whether to allow casinos to be built.
These lawmakers are gambling that voters will vote “yes,” because the casinos could bring a windfall in revenue, jobs and taxes to three areas that are struggling economically.
The legislators say casinos could boost the odds for families struggling where jobs are dwindling.
“Let this be our Amazon,” said Democratic Sen. Louise Lucas, of Portsmouth.
The casinos would be part of larger, proposed entertainment, restaurant and hotel resorts. Casino backer Jim McGlothlin, of the United Company, says they would be game changers.
“We already feed 1,000 people, five days a week lunch that can afford to pay their rent or medical bills, we have teachers that haven’t gotten a raise in years,” said McGlothlin.
A study by Chmura Economics and Analytics indicates that after seven years, a casino resort would generate more than 5,000 jobs, $20 million in local taxes and hundreds of millions in state taxes and economic impact.
“A revenue stream that will help pay for schools, give teachers raises and do the things we need to do,” Democratic Del. Matthew James, of Chesapeake said.
However, the conservative Family Foundation would rather see a measure that lets the entire state vote on whether to legalize casino gambling.
“You have one small city that is going to bring higher crime, addiction and even in some cases of sex trafficking in higher proportions, and the counties and suburbs have no voice in this matter whatsoever,” Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb said.
Legislators say the proposals include plans for security and gambling addiction.
“It will be one of the highest regulated industries that we have,” said Republican Sen. Bill Carrioco, of Bristol. “And they have committed that we’re going to appoint so much money to addiction abuse, for public safety to keep the people around the region safe.”
If the General Assembly passes this bill, the city councils would decide when it would go on the ballot.
Lawmakers are also considering bills to allow sports wagering and to conduct a study of the impacts of gambling on the state.