Saying they need to ‘take a breath,’ Senate panel endorses year-long study of casino gambling plans

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Dashing hopes of gambling boosters racing to open casinos in Virginia as soon as possible, a Senate panel endorsed legislation Wednesday that would give the state a year to study the proposal before moving forward.

“I believe this is a much more deliberative process than what was previously suggested,” said Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, who put forward the substitute legislation.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s secretary of finance, Aubrey Layne, said the approach mirrored Northam’s preferred path.

Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, whose district includes Bristol where the casino push began, opposed the delay, worrying it might mean the projects never go forward if Kentucky or Tennessee act faster.

“Other states are moving at a rapid rate,” he said.

Carrico’s colleagues said they were willing to take that risk if the result is a more informed policy. “It gives us a time out to take a breath to make sure this is going to work out right,” said Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta.

Under the Senate proposal, the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission would be tasked with the study. The legislature would then have to reenact the casino statutes next year for them to take effect.

The House of Delegates has not yet weighed in on the proposal, but GOP Speaker Kirk Cox’s committee on Rules, where he parked the legislation, is expected to move on their versions of the legislation later today.

 

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Ned Oliver
Ned, a Lexington native, has a decade’s worth of experience in journalism, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He also has the awards to show for it, including taking a pair of first-place honors at the Virginia Press Association awards earlier this year for investigative reporting and feature writing. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass.