Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill, titled SB 1126, into law that could pave the way for casinos and sports betting in the state.

The bill grants the Virginia Lottery Board the power to authorize different types of gambling: “baccarat, blackjack, twenty-one, poker, craps, dice, slot machines, sports betting, roulette wheels, Klondike tables, punchboards, faro layouts, keno layouts, numbers tickets, push cards, jar tickets, pull tabs, online gaming, and any other activity that is authorized by the Board as a wagering game or device under Chapter 41.

“For the first time in years, Virginia lawmakers are actively considering proposals for three to five commercial casinos,” said Virginia Lottery Director Kevin Hall. “The General Assembly agreed to establish a time line which calls for a comprehensive study on what casinos could mean for existing gaming, such as lottery and charitable games, and where regulatory oversight should be housed. That study is to be completed by December 1, 2019. Casino legislation also would have to be passed again during the 2020 session, followed by “yes” votes from the localities envisioned in the legislation as potential sites of commercial casinos. As originally envisioned, the Lottery would be the oversight agency.”

Casinos would be allowed only in certain cities outlined in the bill. Furthermore, there would need to be a local vote to allow the casino within the city’s jurisdiction. The referendum must be adopted by January 1, 2021.

However, these referenda cannot take place unless the 2020 General Assembly session re-enacts the legislation and the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission publishes their findings and recommendations regarding casino gaming.

The Commission must report by November 1. Given that referenda cannot take place after 2020, there is a small time frame for voters to approve a local casino. The Lottery Board would be required to create a voluntary exclusion program that would prevent individuals from being entered into any casino establishment overseen by the board in the state.