Petersburg Virginia Casino Bill Passes in State House; Senate Next

Petersburg Virginia Casino Bill Passes in State House; Senate Next
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

A proposed ambitious casino project for Petersburg got new life in the Virginia state House of Representatives on Tuesday. But depending on what happens in the state Senate, the reprieve could prove temporary.

The House voted to pass legislation that would let the casino project go in front of voters in November.  In the commonwealth, despite a popular Virginia sports betting program, local voter approval is needed to allow for a casino.

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What’s Next For Petersburg Casino Proposal

However, approval in the Senate is still needed and that might be problematic. A state Senate committee vote last week narrowly turned down a bill to allow the Petersburg project on the ballot.

The project in question is a proposed $1.4 billion development that includes a casino, a hotel, residential space, entertainment center, shops, and resort amenities such as a swimming pool. It would be built in phases by The Cordish Companies, a Maryland-based developer.

Some Virginia legislators contend that the Petersburg project would come at the expense of the city of Richmond, 25 miles to the north. A Petersburg casino creates the likelihood that a casino in Richmond would be blocked, though a study last year from the state Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission suggested that casinos could coexist in both cities.

Richmond Voters Said No Once

Meanwhile, advocates for the Petersburg project point out that Richmond had the first opportunity to put together a casino project.

After the field of prospective developers was reduced to one, Richmond voters rejected the idea in a 2021 vote.

As Petersburg has moved ahead with the Cordish plan, some legislators want the door left open for Richmond to get a second chance. Despite the study saying that two casinos could work financially in Central Virginia, some contend that it’s clear that a project on the scale of the Petersburg proposal would have little chance if there was a competing casino as close as Richmond.

Against the backdrop of this Petersburg-Richmond battle, the state Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee last Thursday voted by one vote to reject Petersburg’s attempt at a November casino vote.

Narrow House Vote to Approve Bill

With the Petersburg casino proposal gasping for air, the state House moved ahead with its own bill this week. Tuesday, the full House narrowly approved the Petersburg plan, 49-44. The House bill was sponsored by Del.  Kim Taylor, a Republican.

While that was momentary good news for the Petersburg project, the casino bill now goes back to the Senate were its future is cloudy.

There are four other casino projects dotted around the state where voters have voted in favor. A temporary casino in Bristol is up and running, as is the recently opened Rivers Casino Portsmouth, with its BetRivers Sportsbook.

The other cities to approve casinos were Norfolk, with the HeadWaters Resort & Casino project, and Danville, with Caesars Virginia. Both are under construction.

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Bill Ordine was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others

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