Casino Gambling, Betting Projected to Generate $367 Million for Virginia
However, members of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) who conducted the review warned fellow legislators that a major expansion of gambling in the state would not create as many jobs and generate as big economic impact as local developers pitching casino projects have promised.
Last summer, a duo of businessmen from the city of Bristol proposed a plan to develop a casino complex at the site of the former Bristol Mall. Their $1-million lobbying effort eventually resulted in this spring’s passage of a bill focused on the authorization of casino gambling and other gaming and betting activities in the state.
The bill tasked the JLARC with conducting a review of the impact the expansion of gambling would have on the state’s economy. Now as state auditors’ findings have been released, legislators will need to pass another bill that would authorize casinos, sports betting, and online gambling. The matter is expected to be discussed during the upcoming legislative session, but it is to be seen whether lawmakers will indeed choose to consider it over other pressing issues.
Fewer Jobs than Pitched by Developers
The JLARC’s review focused on five potential casinos in the cities of Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond. According to state auditors, the five facilities will generate just under $1 billion in total revenue every year. If taxed at the proposed 27% rate, the casinos will annually contribute around $297 million in tax revenue for the state.
The legalization of sports betting is projected to generate $55 million in tax revenue annually, while the state can rake in another $82 million a year from online casino gambling. Auditors subtracted an estimated $65 million in negative impact on existing gaming options, including the lottery, as well as the cost of regulatory oversight and costs related to supporting problem gamblers to reach a “realistic state net revenue estimate.”
State auditors said Monday that the legalization of casino gaming in the state will not create as many jobs as promised by developers. According to Bristol casino backers, a casino in the city will generate 2,000 new jobs during its first year of operation and 3,200 more by the fifth year. According to JLARC’s study, a gambling venue in the city will create just over 1,000 new jobs, the lowest of any five potential Las Vegas-style gaming facilities.
A casino in Richmond has the highest employment potential with 2,050 direct jobs expected to be generated, state auditors said.
The review also noted that most of the jobs that will be created by expanded gambling will be relatively low-wage ones, with a median annual salary of about $33,000.
Joe McMahon, the principal analyst of the JLARC, told lawmakers Monday that while “casinos would have a positive economic impact”, it would be “modest relative to the broader local economy.”
The developers pitching the Bristol casino plan expressed mild disappointment with the study’s findings. They announced over the weekend that Florida-based gaming and hospitality giant Hard Rock International has agreed to operate the proposed Bristol casino.
Source:Report: Casinos could bring state millions, but wouldn’t be economic driver developers have pitched, Virginia Mercury
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