Virginia officials react to casino bill, Gov. Northam says he’s ‘open-minded’


BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – At a jobs announcement event in Washington County, Virginia Monday morning, officials offered their thoughts on recently approved casino legislation in the General Assembly.

Virginia Delegate Terry Kilgore said that the legislation passing the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate is a positive thing for the local economy in all five areas of the state mentioned in the bill.

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“It’s going to share tax revenue across all of Southwest Virginia, so that’s going to help everybody, and also in the bill, it’s going to require the wages are at a certain level, so that’s going to be good for economic development purposes,” Kilgore said. “When you’re looking at 5,000 jobs, it’s going to be a great opportunity for Southwest Virginia.”

The bill sets specific criteria for localities that would be eligible for a casino project. These localities would include Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Richmond, and Portsmouth.

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The Bristol casino project has been in the works since Summer 2018. Proposal plans indicate that Hard Rock Casino wants to renovate the former Bristol Mall into the Hard Rock Bristol Resort and Casino.

Looking to November 2020, if passed and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, the legislation would be placed on the ballots of voters.

Casino proposals would have to be approved through a public referendum in Bristol, Portsmouth, Richmond, Danville and Norfolk on the next ballot.

You can read the full proposal HERE.

“The casino project, I mean, it did go all the way to the end, it would be yesterday, so it’s going to be a great project, now it’s up to the voters of Bristol, but we think the voters of Bristol are going to do the right thing and let us move forward with the casino,” Kilgore added.

The Senate bill was voted on 27-12 Saturday night out of the conference committee. The legislation was voted on by the House of Delegates Sunday and passed 60-Y 35-N.

The bill’s next step is to receive Gov. Northam’s signature.

“It’s kind of a new day in Virginia with casinos and a piece of legislation will be landing on my desk here soon to potentially establish casinos in five different areas of Virginia,” Northam said Monday morning. “We’re going to look at the legislation, work with the legislators, work with our secretaries of commerce, of finance, and really move forward in a responsible way so, I have a, I think, a month and a half or so to look at that and, but if we’re going to move forward, I’ve always been open to the casinos in Virginia, but I want to make sure that we do it in a responsible manner, so that’s what I plan to do.”

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In January, officials with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians announced an agreement was reached to develop and run a proposed Washington County, Virginia casino adjacent to the Pinnacle Retail Development.

Under the legislation approved Sunday by the Virginia General Assembly, this casino development would not be allowed, since it does not fall within the locality of Bristol, like the Hard Rock casino proposal.

“At this stage, I would have to say that I’m not going to upset the apple cart as far as what the legislature has done so in order for that to have been done it would probably be better for the legislators to do that but if they come to me and want to talk about it like I said I’m open-minded,” Northam said about working with proponent of the Pinnacle casino proposal. 

News Channel 11 has reached out to the developer and attorney for the Pinnacle casino project and as of Monday evening are still waiting to hear back.

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