Virginia's Cruise Ship Casino Plan Could Be Dead in the Water

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A Virginia House of Delegates panel voted 5-3 on Tuesday to dismiss a proposal allowing large cruise ships to activate their casinos within Virginia waters. The decision comes amidst strong public opposition to the initiative, signaling potential challenges for one of the more surprising gambling bills in the 2024 legislative session.

Casino Cruise Ship Idea Makes Waves in Virginia

The concept of introducing casino cruises has certainly caused ripples in Virginia's political landscape. Despite not being included in the conclusion of the bill, the House subcommittee's refusal has cast doubt on the extent of its triumph as it progresses through the Virginia Senate.

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During the subcommittee assembly, Representative Paul Krizek objected to the legislation, highlighting apprehensions regarding its departure from Virginia's customary casino approval voting procedures. However, supporters of the proposed legislation assert that its implementation would invigorate engagement, consequently leading to a surge in tourism profits within the region of Hampton Roads.

Advocating for the bill, Princess Cruise Lines, renowned for its port arrivals in Norfolk, contends that it could pave the way for an unprecedented epoch in the cruise industry. The concept has garnered affirmation from former Senator Frank Wagner, affiliated with Princess Cruises, who has distinctly voiced his backing for this proposition. His perspective is that the state should welcome and embrace the arrival of fresh businesses, rather than turning them away, due to the lucrative potential they possess.

The forthcoming bill, if passed, would grant authority to cruise ships to engage in casino gambling, provided they are at least a mile away from Virginia ports or any other scheduled Virginia stops along their journey. As a result of this stipulation, these vessels would be able to extend their casino operating hours while entering or departing Virginia. Ships must also incorporate a foreign port in order to bypass regulations permitting the operation of floating casinos.

The bill was introduced by Representative Shelly Simonds, who clarified that its intention was to specifically prohibit cruise-style casinos or "booze cruises." Instead, it focuses on permitting larger ships weighing over 50,000 tons with the capacity to accommodate at least 2,000 passengers and overnight travelers.

Guaranteed Revenue for the State

The regulation mandates cruise ships to pay a yearly fee of $50,000 to obtain a local casino license when visiting the state. Additionally, vessels that navigate through Virginia waters without stopping will be subject to an annual fee of $125,000. According to Wagner, this legislation will bring prominence to the Historic Triangle area in Virginia, showcasing its marvelous attractions like Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown.

Despite the opinions voiced by a few inhabitants of Yorktown, a group called Preserve Yorktown, including Mary Jo O'Bryan, actively participated in the legislative session, expressing its apprehensions regarding the influx of cruise ships to their region. O'Bryan strongly believes that endorsing this proposition would solely lead to an increase in profits for the wealthy cruise industry.

Although the bill received backing from all three Republicans on the subcommittee, it faced rejection from five Democrats. The observation made by Krizek implies that the legal aspect persists in maneuvering the situation, ultimately leading to the assertion that maritime casinos are not an integral part of the discourse.

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