PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – State Sen. Louise Lucas, (D-Portsmouth) was once dubbed “the casino lady” by colleagues for her championing of legislation to bring casino gaming to Virginia.
However, she is now encouraging colleagues to vote against bills that would further expand gaming in the state.
Lucas was part of a one-vote majority earlier this month that killed a state Senate bill that would have allowed Petersburg to join the list of five other cities in the state that allow for casinos if voters approve them via referendum.
Her main reason?
She doesn’t want the market to be oversaturated.
“We’ll leave it pretty much up to the committee to decide whether or not there is space for another casino,” Lucas said, “but as I understand right now that the JLARC study does not indicate that there is the feasibility that will allow for it right now.”
In 2020, lawmakers passed legislation allowing five “economically-distressed” host cities to build casinos with voter approval. Voters gave the green light in Bristol, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Danville. The Commonwealth’s first permanent casino opened in Portsmouth last month.
Richmond held a referendum, and there, voters turned the plan down. Plans have been in the works, however, to hold another referendum.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, also known as JLARC, delivered a report to the Virginia General Assembly in November that found additional casinos would reduce net gaming revenue by $55 million for projects that have already been authorized.
By 2028, it said the Petersburg casino, alone, would reduce local tax revenue in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Danville by approximately $1 million each, though there would be “no material impact” on the Bristol development.
“I say we start with these four and go from there,” Lucas said.
Lucas will likely have another chance to make her thoughts known, as the House of Delegates bill allowing for a Petersburg casino is scheduled to be heard Wednesday.