In recent years, Virginia has been dipping its toes in the gambling pool. It started with charitable gambling and bingo halls, which quickly became a popular pastime in the Old Dominion. Then came the state lottery, which grew to be a major player in the national gaming industry, pumping billions into the Commonwealth’s schools each year. But now, Virginia is about to take the big plunge into the world of casino gambling.
That’s because lawmakers have approved a bill that would legalize casinos in five cities, including Danville, Bristol, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Richmond. The General Assembly also passed a measure that will allow the Virginia Lottery Board to regulate the casinos and establish rules and procedures for applying for a license. The legislation would also require the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to research casino laws in other states and submit a report before December 1, 2019.
Once that happens, the Virginia Lottery Board will be allowed to begin accepting applications for casino licenses. The board will consist of eight members, with the governor appointing all of them. The terms of the board members will be staggered to ensure continuity. The first casinos are expected to open in 2023-2024, with the Rivers Casino in Portsmouth and Caesars Virginia Casino Resort Danville opening their doors first. Other venues, such as the headwaters resort in Norfolk and a casino in Richmond are on track to open their doors by late-2024 at the latest.
One Virginian who will likely be happy to see a change in the state’s gambling landscape is chef and caterer Lorenzo Langley, who won $1 million on a scratch-off ticket purchased at a 7-Eleven on West 21st Street. “I thought it was a scam at first,” said the Norfolk man. “But it was real!”
The winning ticket had the number 621 printed on its face, which is a reference to the date of the original drawing for the Powerball game. Langley will be able to choose between taking the full jackpot in installments over 30 years or a cash payout of $675,982. He chose cash.
It’s important to note that while the state is poised to legalize casino games, it’s not allowing online gambling. While there are plenty of websites that claim to offer Virginians a chance to gamble from the comfort of their own homes, none of them actually does. That’s because the legal status of online casinos in Virginia is still unclear.