A seven-member conference committee was established by the Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday to hammer out a compromise for casino legislation.
The Virginia Senate voted 38-0 on Wednesday to reject the House substitute bill and then voted 38-0 to agree to a House demand and establish a committee to try and resolve the vast differences between the two versions.
The 22-page Senate-approved version includes language for local referenda in Bristol, Danville and Portsmouth, plus two other cities regarding casinos.
The original legislation was initiated on behalf of the proposed Bristol Resort and Casino, a $250 million planned redevelopment of the former Bristol Mall forecast to create thousands of jobs.
City governments in Danville and Portsmouth voted to support the plan in hopes of landing a commercial casino and cashing in on the potential for new revenue and jobs. Two other cities, Richmond and Norfolk, are potential sites for a casino run by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.
The Senate version calls for a Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study of gaming regulations, would empower the Lottery Board to oversee gaming in Virginia, establish regulations and enforcement and set the tax rate on casino operations. It also includes a timetable for referenda and license approval to begin.
Earlier this week, the House Rules Committee stripped away all of that language. Its version, of less than three pages, would only create a 15-member legislative commission to study gaming in other locations and present a report to the General Assembly by Nov. 1.
The substitute passed the House on Wednesday 67-31, with only one member of the Southwest Virginia delegation, Del. Will Morefield, R-North Tazewell, voting in opposition.
Senate conferees will be Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Galax, and Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who carried the original versions of the gaming legislation, and Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond. All voted for the Senate version.
House conferees include Del. Chris Peace, R-Mechanicsville, who authored the House substitute language; Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock; Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk; and Del. Kenneth Plum, D-Reston. Of the four, only Gilbert voted against the House version.
The first meeting of the committee hasn’t been scheduled.