Va. study finds casino gamble could work, but warns against big promises

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The gamble of bringing casino gaming to the Commonwealth could be worth it, but study finds negative side effects are also likely.

The Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee released several studies on Monday, including one looking at the future of gaming expansion in the state.

The roughly 200-page report was conducted with the help of consultants to find out both the “local and state fiscal and economic impacts” of gaming expansion in the commonwealth as well as how officials have handled having casinos in other states.

Joe McMahon, a representative of JLARC, said the expansion of casinos along with sports wagering and online casino gaming in the state is expected to generate $370 million in net state revenue. As it stands, the bill sponsored by Senator Louise Lucas, D-Porstmouth, would only the cities of Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Richmond to host casino gaming if the bill passes and then is subsequently approved by voters in each individual city.

While the study found that each casino is projected to employ at least 1,000 people. Any hopes for “high paying jobs” from the casinos were met with doubts as JLARC revealed that median wage of casino jobs were projected to be lower than the median wage of all cities.

While the report ran several different tax rate scenarios, it would be up to lawmakers themselves to settle on a number. Lawmakers would also have to decide where casino money would go and who would regulate the industry. Staff finds that even if the bill passes the General Assembly in 2020, it wouldn’t likely be until 2024 that a casino would open.

JLARC officials also found that two resort casinos would likely not survive in Hampton Roads with the high tax rate of 40%, casting a doubtful future for the proposed resort casinos in Portsmouth and Norfolk.

Though the report states that the proposed casinos in the two cities could contribute at a total $95 million annually in state gaming tax revenue. That is on top of an additional $85 million in net gaming revenue projected to be generated concurrently by two Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in the region.

Another risk put on the table is the rise of problem gambling in the state, which officials say could cost $2 million to $6 million a year in gaming prevention and treatment cost.

Officials have recommended the state to hire an independent consultant to assess studies before casino licences are awarded stating that “casino proposals may overpromise anticipated revenue or economic impact.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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