In the ongoing discussion in Virginia about whether or not to allow gambling in their state, the governor has stated he is willing to talk about the possibility of increased gambling in the state. Governor Ralph Northam has proposed a commission to examine the possibility of gambling in the state. The governor has also said he would support increased gambling revenues in the state if the commission and the public is in favor of it.
Why the Change in Attitudes in Virginia?
One reason for the changes in attitudes in the state is that surrounding states are seeing a serious uptick in the revenue streams in the state. For example, neighboring West Virginia and Pennsylvania have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in gaming revenue since they have begun to allow gambling in the mid-2000s.
While Virginia has been part of horse racing for centuries, that is all the gambling that was allowed in the state. In fact, Virginia has prided itself on just having horse racing as a form of gambling. This is perhaps because horse racing was tied to the plantations and farming, where horses would race on dirt tracks. Horse racing and owning racehorses was a sign of wealth and good breeding, where other forms of gambling were not. If Virginia does allow other forms of gambling, it will represent a historic reversal in the state.
Those Border States
Currently, Virginia represents one of 11 states where casinos are not located. Many of these states, such as Georgia and Alabama, are located in the South, while others are located in the Western United States. Data going into Virginia demonstrates that gamblers who live in Virginia are leaving the state to gamble in either Maryland or West Virginia. Not only are the gamblers gambling in the Border States, but they are also spending money in those states in entertainment, food, and shopping. Sportsbooks in West Virginia are also popular, taking in over $10 million in revenue within their first month of operation. Virginia is seeking that kind of revenue to make up for revenue shortfalls in the state.
The Governor and the Legislature
Many legislators are in favor of increasing the amount of gambling in the state, because it wants to increase revenue streams for Virginia. Legislators also said that they want to increase tourism to the state, especially in areas that are outside of the popular beaches in the state. The beaches regularly draw crowds on their own, but other areas of the state could benefit from additional tourism dollars. These dollars could also be a benefit to the state.
Both the legislators and the governor have stated that other forms of gambling should be considered. However, recent statements by the governor mark the first time that he has moved favorably towards gaming in the state. The governor has advocated forming a commission to study how and where gambling should be phased into the state. The commission would also study what forms of gambling would be best for Virginia as well. The governor is advocating for gambling responsibly for his state.
Both the governor and the legislature are concerned because the state is worried about its ties to the federal government. The state is seeking to diversify its economy. However, much of Virginia’s revenue is tied to the federal government. Lots of government agencies are located in the state. Virginia is also home to thousands of federal employees. Because the state relies so heavily on the federal government for income, they are also not as diverse as other states. Virginia could be adversely affected by a government shutdown, for example. If the state can diversify its economy, it will have more control over its economic future.
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