Virginia’s New Casino Industry Could Be Under Threat
Supporters of legal gambling in Virginia were celebrating two weeks ago when state legislature approved the building of five large casinos in the state. This was supposed to provide Virginia with an economic boost, providing jobs and tourism money to the economy.
But the coronavirus pandemic seems to have crushed those hopes as the US gambling industry is in turmoil with casinos all over the country in lockdown mode.
Casinos have immediately come under the scanner as public gatherings have been discouraged throughout the United States. State governments including Nevada have closed down their casino industries over concerns of COVID-19. The shutdown has caused a major hit to the US economy with the hospitality, tourism, and gambling industry being the hardest hit.
Major casino operators have seen drops in share prices. This has put into doubt whether any of them would be able to finance and operate any new planned casinos in Virginia. They might even have problems paying the 15 million dollar license fee that the state is asking. Casino operators who were earlier eager to enter the state might have to delay or pull out if they lack the finances brought on by the COVID-19 fallout.
Supporters of the casino legislation in Virginia are still hopeful though. They are confident that the industry has enough time to rebound from the economic hit before any action is taken. This is because Virginia voters will still have to vote in a referendum in November and a state vetting process has to happen before licenses are awarded.
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This gives operators plenty of time to get their finances sorted out, assuming things get back to normal soon. One good thing is that some of the casinos proposed for opening in Virginia have the backing of private investors who may have access to funds that would not be hit by the downturn of gambling share prices.
There are some casino operators who continue to remain positive about the Virginia market. Caesars Entertainment has announced that they will continue with their goal of getting a Virginia gaming license and building a casino in the area.
Introduce A Competitive Bidding Process
Though the state lawmakers have put their stamp of approval on the casinos, Gov. Ralph Northam still has the chance to make amendments. If he does, lawmakers will need to vote on them in April. One possible amendment Gov. Northam could pursue would be to add a competitive bidding process for the licenses.
Currently, there are already some agreements in place for three of the five cities that will be allowed to have casinos. Opening it up to competitive bidding can potentially widen the field and make the process fairer.