Should General Assembly’s gambling study focus on five cities picked by lawmakers? House and Senate at odds

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Speaking in broad strokes, the House and Senate ended up on the same page when it comes to the big push for casino gambling. Order up a study, think about it and hold off on any final decision until next year.

But the agreement, it turns out, ends there.

Among the remaining points of contention is how such a study should be framed.

The House wants a broad study of whether and how casino gambling might work in the state, including an evaluation of where casinos should be located.

The Senate wants a narrower study that takes a legalization of casino gambling as a given and focuses on the five cities picked by lawmakers as potential casino hosts: Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond.

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, called the differences “irreconcilable” during a terse debate in committee Tuesday with House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights.

Cox worried focusing the review on five cities selected by lawmakers from the respective localities could “prejudice the study.”

Norment said he disagreed. “I don’t think there’s any bias toward any locality” he said, but said he invited amendments to the Senate’s legislation to address the concerns.

Cox declined.

This disagreement is now likely to get hashed out in a conference committee down the road.