Petersburg’s Casino Referendum Faces Decision in General Assembly

The city of Petersburg in Virginia is on the verge of potentially hosting a casino, pending the decision of the Virginia General Assembly in the 2024 session. The city officials have officially referred to the Assembly in the hopes of passing an amended bill that would allow a referendum on casino development.

The bill in question, Senate Bill 628, aims to amend casino host city requirements in a way that would make Petersburg suitable for the approval of a casino. One of the key amendments includes a minimum 13% unemployment rate requirement, which Petersburg meets with its 21.1% unemployment rate in 2020.

The main proponents of the bill in the Senate are Sen. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, and Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee chair Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. The addition of Lucas is seen as increasing the chances of the bill passing in the 2024 session, given her influential position. The Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee had previously opposed the bill in two sessions.

Petersburg had been excluded from consideration for hosting a casino in 2019, but has been included since 2021 after the voters of the city of Richmond rejected casino operations multiple times. Efforts for Petersburg’s referendum have been supported by Del. Kim Taylor, who emphasized the importance of allowing voters to make their voices heard on the matter.

The city officials of Petersburg are relying on their legal suitability and influential support from lawmakers to host the fourth casino resort in the state. Their hopes have been bolstered by supporting legislation proposed after Richmond’s defeat in the 2021 ballot, which would allow for the long-expected referendum in Petersburg.

The bill, if passed, would provide Petersburg with the opportunity for a casino development, pending the results of a referendum. The decision now rests with the Virginia General Assembly, as the city eagerly awaits the outcome.