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Northern Virginia excluded from proposed state casino bill

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 1/22/2019 Michael Quander

Do not place your bets just yet, but casinos could become a reality in Virginia.

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Some state lawmakers hope to open slots in at least five cities, but Northern Virginia may never see any of the money.

The proposed legislation is sort of a big deal because Virginia has fought against casinos for years.

A Senate committee moved a bill forward on Monday which outlines what would be the rules and laws around casinos in the state.

RELATED: FBI investigates possible corruption at MGM Harbor

The legislation named a handful of cities where the gambling clubs would be built, including Bristol, Portsmouth, and Danville.

Separately, the Pamunkey Tribe is going the federal route to lock down casinos in Richmond and Norfolk.

However, the tribe also wants help from state lawmakers.

Under the bill, casinos likely would not end up in Northern Virginia anytime soon because residents have more jobs and make too much money compared to other counties in the state.

“Northern Virginia definitely does not qualify for any of the casinos.” Sen. Scott Surovell, of Fairfax, said. “The population brackets were put in there to focus on 5 specific jurisdictions.”

The casino gaming bill limits permits to cities the meet at least four requirements:

A big chunk of locally tax-exempt land, an unemployment rate at least four points higher than the state average, a poverty rate of at least 22 percent, and a population that has dropped at least 20 percent than the previous year.

Senator Surovell said he is tired of seeing MGM and Maryland snatching up coins from Virginia and looks forward to some other bills on the table.

“There are two bills about sports betting. One is an online-only option, and the other one is a brick and mortar sports betting option.” Sen. Surovell explained. “I have some interest in the brick and mortar because I think that could provide some competition to MGM in Northern Virginia (to) help keep some of that money in Virginia.”

The sports betting and casino bills are early in the process, and the casinos will not be built unless approved by local voters.

If passed, casino licenses would not be given out until July of 2020.

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