Petersburg might still get its Virginia casino as part of an expansive, proposed $1.4 billion development that would come with it. But the road got rockier when a state Senate committee voted last week against a bill to advance the project.
The state Senate’s Finance and Appropriations Committee, by a single vote, essentially blocked legislation that would put the Petersburg casino proposal question on the ballot for local voters. In Virginia, local voters decide whether to allow a casino.
The Petersburg project would be developed by the Cordish Companies, a well-known Maryland developer of various projects including casinos, entertainment districts and hotels, often under the Live! brand.
What Petersburg Casino Project Proposes
The Petersburg project has the promise of not just a resort-style casino but a hotel, an entertainment center, shops and 2,000 jobs. Statewide, Virginia sports betting has been an example of how the industry can bring in tax dollars.
The Petersburg casino proposal is being hailed by some as a “destination” casino and would be built in phases.
The legislative battle over the Petersburg casino project in the Virginia General Assembly is part of an ongoing tussle featuring Petersburg and Richmond, 24 miles to the north. The state capital had the first opportunity to move ahead with a casino project but in 2021, Richmond voters rejected it. That turn of events helped open the door for Petersburg.
Should Petersburg succeed in following up the failure in Richmond to approve a casino project with a development such as the one currently proposed, that might effectively shut out Richmond from getting back in the casino-development game.
In the fall of 2022, the state's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission released a study that said projected casinos in Richmond and Petersburg could coexist given the demand.
What Might Happen Next
However, all might not be lost for Petersburg despite the state Senate committee vote. Similar legislation to put the casino question in front of local voters is alive in the state House of Representatives.
In the state House, the House Finance Committee narrowly voted to advance the Petersburg bill to the House floor. It would have to pass there, reportedly by Tuesday, before making a return to the state Senate for another crack at passage in that chamber.
It’s difficult to say whether efforts to advance the Petersburg casino will succeed — the state has made no significant legal moves toward adding online casinos in Virginia despite the state’s steps toward welcoming more gaming overall.
Some have voiced the strong opinion that Central Virginia cannot support two casino projects — at least with one of them planned to be a destination casino. Others contend casinos in both cities could work, though the Petersburg casino might have to be far more modest.
Four casino projects are either operating or underway in the commonwealth, including a temporary casino in Bristol and a recently opened facility in Portsmouth.
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