Virginia has little legalized gambling, and State Senator Louise Lucas is hoping to change this. At this time, the only legalized gambling in Virginia is a lottery. Senator Lucas has introduced a bill with the aim of legalizing poker in the state.
The poker bill only deals with land-based poker games. It would take some time to consider legalizing online poker in a state that essentially has no gambling. Lottery tickets are only available from land-based vendors in Virginia. There has recently been an attempt to allow lottery tickets to be sold via the Internet. The bill was defeated by the House Committee on General Laws subcommittee. It is clear that Senator Lucas will have to fight hard to get poker legalized.
In order to legalize the game in Virginia, the legal code would have to classify poker as a game of skill. The proposed amendment to the law reads: “Poker games shall be deemed games of skill, and nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to make any such game illegal gambling.”
The wording of the current law that defines illegal gambling in the Commonwealth notes clearly that stakes cannot be placed on a “contest or any other event the outcome of which is uncertain or a matter of chance, whether such game, contest or even occurs or is to occur inside or outside the limits of the Commonwealth.”
Some will interpret the current law to say that poker is legal in Virginia since it does not fit into the exact definition of illegal gambling, since the outcome is at least partially affected by skill.
MGM National Harbor Casino was opened in December, and while the casino is not in Virginia, it has been predicted that a large portion of the casino’s business is likely to come from those who live in Virginia. Before the casino opened, Senator Lucas and State Senator Scott Surovell wrote an article for the Richmond Times-Dispatch regarding the casino and how Virginia will be affected.
The senators noted: “MGM anticipates that nearly half of its business — $350 million per year — will come from Virginians. The Virginia Lottery’s senior economist estimates that the state’s lottery will lose $15 million to $30 million in sales and $5 million to $10 million in profits per year starting next year because of the MGM casino.”
Lucas and Surovell further explained: “While we could choose to continue helping Maryland, West Virginia and New Jersey’s taxpayers, we could also choose to start diversifying our revenue sources and keeping our money, tax revenue, and jobs right here in Virginia.”
For this reason alone, the senators feel that gambling should be legalized in Virginia.