We have seen one of the most expansive bills passed in Virginia in 2019, and believe it or not, it is about gambling. However, voters, as well as lawmakers, will have the final word after the 2020 Elections for the General Assembly.
Online gaming, sports betting, and real-life casino gambling should become legal as per this new law, but the second approval by the Assembly is required in 2020 as well as the additional study by lawmakers. Both the Senate and the House of Delegate seats are up for grabs (140 in total), which means that the law is still hanging on a tight thread.
The advantage of Republicans is 21–19 in the Senate and 51–49 in the House, which is not spectacular, so the change is quite possible although not guaranteed. For gambling advocates and stakeholders, the Elections can bring either a historic turning point or the continuation of prohibition that has lasted for centuries.
What Are We Electing?
All seats in the Senate and in the House are up for elections, and the party control can switch completely. On the other hand, a third of the members of the Senate and half of the House members are running without a major opponent. How many will change is questionable.
Although the municipal governments are in the election phase, they only preside over the counties and independent cities, so they will not affect the bill in any way. The same goes for school boards. The 2019 ballot does not include federal offices, such as the House of Representatives, nor the executive positions of the governor and the attorney general.
What About Gambling?
Regarding the gambling legislature, it all depends on the new delegation as they will have the final say on the matter. The Assembly is responsible for everything that’s related to gaming in the state, and they will determine the future of the business in Virginia.
With a lot of details lacking, we have seen the possibility of land-based establishments, as well as online gaming and sports betting, come to life in Old Dominion. Of course, this is only the foundation for the expansion of the gaming industry even though both chambers passed the bill. The lawmakers will have to give a second approval after the study group files their report by the end of the year. The report should provide further details on the effects of legal gambling.
The groundworks for a casino in Bristol together with online sportsbooks and various internet gaming options could remain illegal if the new delegation decides to vote against the bill.
What’s Really at Stake?
The successful passing of the bill in both chambers does not provide any certainties, and all eyes are on the GA in 2020. The fate of the bill is in the hands of future delegates. With Democrats being a minority in both chambers, it is a bit peculiar that the bill was passed with a two-to-one margin. Republicans have been the traditional opponents of the gaming business, but it seems that they have started being more lenient towards the idea.
Since Democrats are only a couple of seats away from taking control, most analysts think that the bill has a bright future. If they reached the majority in the Senate, there should be no obstacles to the legalization of gambling. Three patrons of the current bill are from the Senate Democrats.
Even if the power remained in the hands of the Good Old Party, the bill is likely to pass as we are seeing more and more Republicans understanding the benefits that gaming brings to struggling economies. Though dramatic takeovers would be good for gambling stakeholders, even the status quo does not mean that the second approval would automatically fail.
The major obstacle for the gaming advocates is Kirk Cox, current House Speaker form the lines of GOP. As one of the loudest opponents of the bill, Cox’s removal from the House and the position of the Speaker would clear the way for the legislative efforts. The question is, will he be able to hold the position, and will he even stay in the House?
By managing to reach the majority in both chambers, Democrats will control both legislative bodies and the governor’s mansion. We haven’t witnessed that situation in decades. Ralph Northam, who should hold the position of the governor until 2022, is a supporter of the bill and gaming legalization in general. With the Democrat majority, he should be able to push the gaming perspective even further.
Gaming in Old Dominion
Virginia’s relationship with gaming has been of steady but unfavorable nature. Any kind of gambling activities have been banned since the Revolutionary War, except for the lottery. One can rarely come across such rigid legislation even in the States. In the last couple of years, there appears to be a shift in attitude.
The state allowed the re-opening of a commercial race track, and we should expect an opening of a first casino on the Native American tribal land soon. Free online games to win real money with no deposit are becoming very popular, so it’s safe to say that all forms of gaming are, in a way, a reality in Old Dominion.
However, this particular law would open doors for proper development. There are cities that eagerly await the opportunity to open gaming venues because they could thrive on the business.
As some may remember, the Elections that took place two years ago were really tight. Less than 100 votes decided on the outcome, with one of the race demanding a random drawing. Another suspenseful race is ahead of us though Democrats have a bit of an edge. If we do not take into account individual races, Democrats boast a 13-point advantage. That is according to the Christopher Newport University poll generic ballot.
The Republican legislature from ten years ago indicates that voters of each jurisdiction can vote for only one Delegate and one Senator to represent them. Virginia supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 Presidential Elections. The Party won three offices in 2017 and took 15 seats from Republicans in the House of Delegates in 2018.
On the other hand, it would be unwise to write off Republicans yet since Virginia has favored them from the 1970s, and they have managed to take hold of the House in every election since the year 2000. We are looking into one hell of a race with the future of the gambling expansion depending on the results.