Casinos May Be on the Way to Some Economically Struggling Communities in Virginia

May 7, 2019

Credit AP Photo / Matthew Brown

Will Virginia voters press their luck with casinos?

Is Danville really the right place for a casino? That’s a question that could soon be before voters in Danville now that the governor has signed legislation opening the door to casino gambling in Virginia.

The legislation was introduced by state Senator Louise Lucas of Portsmouth.

“Just as Northern Virginia and other parts of the state will receive rewards of Amazon’s location, rewards from which all of us will benefit, we need a game changer in our areas of the state as well,” says Lucas.

Her bill, which was signed by the governor and is now law, could open the door to gambling in economically struggling communities of Danville, Bristol and Portsmouth. It could also end up allowing Pamunkey Tribe casinos near Richmond and Norfolk.

But is any of that really a good idea? Frank Shafroth at George Mason University says no.

“That little tiny city in New Jersey that had this crazy feeling that they could rely on casinos, and it clearly did not happen," he says. "It led instead to as close to municipal bankruptcy for Atlantic City as possible and then led to a state takeover.”

Nothing is imminent. At least not yet. A study is due to lawmakers by December. And then voters would need to approve a casino in one of the five locations before anybody was able to start placing their bets.

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