Petersburg Casino Sees Improved Odds After Major Endorsement

Posted on: January 16, 2024, 09:08h.

Last updated on: January 16, 2024, 09:08h.

The odds of Petersburg, Va., becoming host to a commercial casino have shortened after legislation seeking to designate the small city roughly 25 miles south of Richmond gained support from one of the more powerful state lawmakers in the commonwealth.

Petersburg casino Virginia Louise Lucas
The odds of Petersburg being allocated casino privileges presumably improved after state Sen. Louise Lucas lent her support. Petersburg is seeking a gaming opportunity after voters in nearby Richmond said no twice to such a project. (Image: The Virginian-Pilot)

Legislation introduced this week in the General Assembly requests to amend Virginia’s 2020 commercial gaming bill that qualified five cities for commercial casinos. While not specifically identifying the town, Senate Bill 628 crafts updated qualifying conditions for cities to mull casinos that would only entitle Petersburg to casino gambling.

The legislation was introduced this week by state Sens. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg).

Lucas, the “Casino Lady” of Virginia who fought for casinos for decades and was the primary sponsor of the state’s 2020 gaming statute, opposed legislative efforts to designate Petersburg as a casino host after Richmond in 2021 rejected a proposed casino. When then-state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) continued to fight to allow Petersburg to field casino bids last year, she maintained her opposition.

However, after Richmonders last November for a second time voted against a casino in the capital metro, Lucas had a change of heart. She also conceded that her strong opposition to Morrissey, with whom she repeatedly butted heads, played a part in her previous hostility to qualifying Petersburg for a casino.

Lucas also expected the 2023 Richmond casino referendum to pass. But after voters there even more strongly dismissed the city’s casino pitch than they did in 2021, Lucas believes it’s time to reallocate the gaming privilege.

Petersburg Casino Bill

Lucas’ Petersburg casino bill comes in support with Aird, who defeated Morrissey in last June’s Democratic primary. Virginia’s 2020 casino law mandated that only cities meeting certain economic hardships would be allowed to field casino bids and ask their residents to sign off on the city’s chosen gaming development through a local ballot referendum.

Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville, Bristol, and Richmond met the law’s criteria. Each city except Richmond subsequently held local referendums authorizing a single casino. Lucas and Aird’s legislation seeks to amend the qualifying conditions with new criteria tailored toward Petersburg.

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