Featured in this article:
  • Debate is heating up over where to build Virginia's fifth casino.
  • Richmond residents rejected a casino proposal, opening the door for nearby Petersburg.
  • New bill would allow a vote in Petersburg while blocking a second referendum in Richmond.

3 Minute Read

The Virginia Cavalier mascot performs during an NCAA college basketball game Monday Jan. 24, 2022, in Charlottesville, Va., but you couldn't bet on the game in VA.(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Competing proposals to build the next Virginia casino have seen the city of Petersburg’s chances rise at Richmond’s expense. A new bill in the state legislature would allow Petersburg’s citizens to vote on whether to proceed with a casino in their town as soon as this November.

During Virginia’s recent embrace of gambling, the state authorized up to five casinos. However, the voters of each host city needed to approve the casino during a local referendum. Richmond was the only one of the five cities to defeat the casino measure.

Why Petersburg for the Next Virginia Casino?

The first four casino locations all were approved by local voters during the November 2020 elections. Those casinos are located in:

Downtown Richmond, Virginia at night.

The state capital of Richmond, seen here, may be shut out of the state’s casino boom. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

  • Bristol
  • Danville
  • Norfolk
  • Portsmouth

However, due to planning delays, Richmond residents did not get to have their say until the November 2021 election. In a non-presidential election, citizens of Virginia’s capital city voted down the proposed One Casino and Resort.

This left one Virginia casino location up for grabs. And the smaller city of Petersburg, only 25 miles south of Richmond, jumped at the chance.

What’s Next for Virginia’s Gambling Expansion?

Local leaders in Petersburg quickly began campaigning for the fifth Virginia casino. However, the state law that authorized casino construction did not allow for a new city to fill in as a replacement for Richmond.

Therefore, lawmakers needed to create new legislation allowing Petersburg the chance to vote on the casino. At the same time, backers of the Richmond One Casino updated the plan and stumped for a second referendum.

State Senator Joe Morrissey, whose district spans both Richmond and Petersburg, introduced a bill that would grant the smaller city the opportunity to vote on a casino. On Thursday, a Senate sub-committee advanced his measure.

Five Democrats and four Republicans on the Senate’s gaming subcommittee agreed to send his Petersburg casino bill to the full Laws and Technology Committee.

Bill Would Block a Richmond Casino

Interestingly, Morrissey’s bill would not only allow Petersburg to vote on whether to build a casino in town, it would also shut down renewed efforts for a Richmond casino. His bill would block Richmond residents from voting on a casino for the next five years, regardless of whether Petersburg approves the casino.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has been trying to revive the One Casino and Resort plan for the city’s south side. But Sen. Morrissey stated that Richmond residents have spoken, and the region still needs the economic development boost from a casino.

He believes Petersburg is the right location for that development. Though he supported the Richmond casino in 2021, he is now fully pivoting to a location in the more modest town.

The five casinos are the cornerstone of Virginia’s new gaming rules. The state has embraced mobile sports betting while trying to rein in gray-market skill games. Settling the location of the final Virginia casino will be the capstone on the Commonwealth’s embrace of regulated gambling.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller is a veteran casino writer with decades of experience writing online casino reviews and game guides. His betting strategy articles, and gambling news updates have been a fixture in the industry since 2004.

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