Democratic Senator L. Louise Lucas has tried to introduce legislation that would see casino gaming come to the state of Virginia several times, but each time failed to see her proposals move forward. On Monday, Lucas tried yet again to propose the idea of casino gaming but fellow legislators are not on board. Lucas pointed out that after the MGM National Harbor opened in December, the Maryland casino is sucking the dollars from the state.
Four casino bills are dead now that the Republicans voted down Lucas’ proposals with a party-line vote of 8-7. Lucas would like to see Portsmouth add casino gaming as her home city is already fiscally stressed. The city has an above-average amount of non-taxable federal property and tolls have caused the town to suffer after they were put in place to help fund a new underwater tunnel to connect Portsmouth to Norfolk.
As part of her effort to see gambling come to the state, Lucas asked for assistance from City Attorney Solomon Ashby. Ashby attended the hearing to back the bills of Lucas on behalf of the Portsmouth city hall. Lucas tried to use money as a way to entice lawmakers to show interest, speaking on how residents of Virginia are visiting Maryland to gamble by the busload. Lucas wants to see these funds brought back to Virginia.
Lottery officials reportedly have no stance on the legislation proposed by Lucas but the Executive Director of the lottery, Paula Otto, did state that the officials of the lottery would oversee a gaming venue if one was allowed by the General Assembly.
Otto was asked how much money would be lost due to the casino opening in Maryland and she stated as much as $10 million in lottery profits could be lost annually. The lottery of the state usually generates around $550 million a year. Otto also pointed out that the MGM casino believes that as much as fifty percent of their business will come from the state of Virginia.
Of course, there are those who are opposed to the plans. The Family Foundation is a group that lobbies for conservative causes who spoke out against the bills.
While the bills were not passed by the committee, Lucas did see Senate Bill 1400 approved. This bill will allow organizations that provide bingo games to have the option to provide poker games as well. The measure also allows the state to regulate poker tournaments. This bill passed with a vote of 8-7 once Senator William R. DeSteph Jr. came to Lucas’ side.