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Virginia’s Petersburg Casino Referendum Hangs in the Balance

Discover the intricate legislative maneuvers and political dynamics shaping the fate of Virginia's Petersburg casino referendum. As Governor Youngkin's budget negotiations unfold, the future of Senate Bill 628 remains uncertain, leaving stakeholders on edge amidst the prospect of a potential special legislative session.
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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: Mar 15, 2024

Virginia's Petersburg Casino Referendum Hangs in the Balance

In Petersburg, Virginia, the prospect of a ballot initiative on the establishment of a brick-and-mortar casino in November 2024 remains uncertain. However, recent developments suggest that the fate of this referendum could swiftly change, contingent upon gubernatorial actions and legislative negotiations. At the heart of this uncertainty lies Senate Bill 628, a pivotal piece of legislation that holds the key to triggering a vote on casino gaming in Petersburg. While both chambers of the Virginia legislature endorsed the bill, its journey faced a critical obstacle.

 

What's Key?

  1. “The fate of Senate Bill 628 holds the key to triggering a vote on casino gaming in Petersburg. While both chambers of the Virginia legislature endorsed the bill, its journey faced a critical obstacle.” – Virginia Casino bill, SB 628, languishes in legislative purgatory
  2. “The ongoing negotiations between Governor Youngkin and the legislature over the state's budget could influence the dynamics surrounding the casino legislation.” – Budget deal likely to be the focus of a potential special session
  3. “The possibility of SB 628 becoming a bargaining chip in budget negotiations adds another layer of complexity to the unfolding legislative drama.” – VA budget conversation may turn casino bill into a bargaining chip

 

The House of Delegates' approval of SB 628 came belatedly on March 7, missing the state's deadline for presenting legislation to Governor Glenn Youngkin during the regular session, which concluded on March 9. Consequently, the bill now awaits consideration during the next regular session in 2025, unless expedited action is taken.

The possibility of a special legislative session, potentially called by Governor Youngkin, looms large. Such a session, if convened in April, could provide a platform for reconsidering SB 628 and its potential implications. However, the governor's stance on the casino bill remains undisclosed, leaving room for speculation regarding his priorities.

Meanwhile, the ongoing negotiations between Youngkin and the legislature over the state's budget for the next biennium could influence the dynamics surrounding the casino legislation. Notably, Youngkin has voiced discontent over the exclusion of certain funding measures from the budget, including support for a sports arena in Alexandria.

The role of key legislative figures, such as Virginia Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, also comes into focus. Lucas, a sponsor of SB 628 and a pivotal figure in the Senate, could advocate for the casino bill's inclusion in a potential special session agenda. However, budgetary concerns may overshadow other legislative matters, potentially relegating the casino bill to the sidelines.

 

“Casino gaming in Petersburg hinges on the fate of Senate Bill 628, caught in legislative purgatory despite endorsement from both chambers of the Virginia legislature.”

 

The possibility of SB 628 becoming a bargaining chip in budget negotiations adds another layer of complexity to the unfolding legislative drama. Youngkin's leverage over the casino referendum could hinge on concessions from Lucas and the legislature, particularly regarding contentious funding allocations.

While Youngkin has refrained from overtly signaling his intentions, the stakes are high for proponents and opponents of the Petersburg casino referendum alike. The outcome of these legislative maneuvers could determine the trajectory of gambling policy in Virginia and shape the future of Petersburg's gaming landscape for years to come.

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