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Casino Initiative for Petersburg, VA, Gathers Support

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Petersburg's casino referendum legislation is poised to undergo its first legislative scrutiny this week, and there is a notable surge in optimism compared to the last two sessions. Virginia House Speaker Don Scott attributes this positive outlook to a change in leadership, emphasizing that last year's efforts were led by individuals driven more by political motives than the genuine betterment of Petersburg.

New Casino Effort Underway

The new legislation, Senate Bill 628, is expected to be presented before a subcommittee of the Senate General Laws & Technology Committee, with Senator Louise Lucas and former Petersburg Delegate Lashrecse Aird as its chief patrons. Aird, who emerged victorious in the Democratic primary last June and subsequently won the general election, is aligned with the goal of advancing the casino legislation for the economic prosperity of Petersburg.

Related: Virginia City that Rejected Casino Reconsiders its Opposition

Virginia House Speaker Scott, advocating for collaboration, expressed his willingness to work with any party to achieve positive outcomes for Petersburg. Drawing parallels with the success of the Rivers Casino in Portsmouth, Scott believes that a casino can bring substantial economic benefits to Petersburg, similar to the $23.85 million in state gaming revenues generated by the Rivers Casino in December, marking its one-year anniversary on January 23.

While Senate Bill 628 doesn't explicitly designate Petersburg as a casino host, it establishes conditions that make the city a favorable candidate. The legislation eliminates the previous minimum population requirement of 200,000, adjusts tax-exempted real estate property rates, and incorporates a new condition: the host city must have had an unemployment rate of at least 13% in 2020, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Petersburg the Likely Choice

Petersburg, with an unemployment rate of 21.1% in 2020, meets this criterion. The proposed changes in Senate Bill 628 aim to create a more inclusive framework, potentially opening the door for Petersburg to host a casino and reap the associated economic benefits.

Petersburg's delegate, Republican Kim Taylor of Dinwiddie County has chosen to support Aird's bill rather than presenting a companion bill. Taylor championed the casino referendum in the House during the last two sessions.

Despite past divisions, there seems to be a collaborative spirit in the current legislative push for the casino referendum. The dynamics surrounding the casino legislation in Petersburg are shifting positively, with hopes for economic revitalization taking center stage in the upcoming legislative discussions.

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