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State lawmakers can't agree on which city should get a casino referendum next

Casino Gambling Machine
Wayne Parry
A gambler rings up a win on a slot machine at the Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 8, 2022.

Lawmakers are struggling over where to locate Virginia's next casino.

Many people in Petersburg are hoping state lawmakers will allow them to hold a referendum to see if voters there would approve a new casino. This week, Republican Delegate Kim Taylor Dinwiddie got a bill out of the House to allow a referendum.

"This bill is not about partisanship," Dinwiddie said. "This bill is about our collective ability to put politics aside and support a project that will uplift a community that has been overlooked and struggling for decades."

But there's a problem. Richmond also wants a referendum, even though voters there have already rejected a casino project once. The Senate has already rejected a similar bill because some are hoping to see a second referendum in Richmond rather than a first one in Petersburg. Delegate Mark Sickles is a Democrat from Fairfax County.

"A thing I don't like in this bill is that there is a restriction on Richmond going forward until Petersburg gets to go first. I don't like that, and I wish that was not in the bill," explained Sickles. "The other body has defeated this bill, so its passage over there is highly questionable. And so therefore my vote in favor of this today is to keep this process going to find a way to serve both cities."

Now the House and Senate will try to figure out some kind of a way to cut a deal.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.