Virginia Casino Cruise Ship Bill Set Out to Sea

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The Richmond skyline is viewed from across the James River on July 23, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. Jay Paul/Getty Images/AFP

A bid to allow cruise ships to operate their casinos off the coast of Virginia sank.

Let’s explore the specifics of the bill and assess potential implications for the future of leading sportsbooks in the Old Dominion.

Some Say Casino Cruise Ships Are Needed in Virginia

A Virginia House subcommittee on gaming rejected a proposal that would have allowed cruise ships to operate their casinos within the state’s waters. The subcommittee’s three Republicans voted in favor of the bill and five Democrats overruled them.

“Normally cruise ships have to travel four or five hours out to international waters before they can open their casinos,” Delegate Shelly Simonds told the House subcommittee, “This bill would allow them to open casinos one mile from their place of mooring or anchoring in Virginia, giving them additional hours of gaming time.” However, the proposal ran aground when some angry Yorktown residents spoke out against the idea of encouraging more cruise ship activity off the Old Dominion coast.

Those who support the idea say that it could boost cruise ship activity in the Hampton Roads area, bringing in more revenue and tourists. Princess Cruise Lines, which visits Norfolk, is advocating for the bill this year.

Navigating the Details

According to former Senator Frank Wagner, a lobbyist for Princess, welcoming cruise ships with open arms could kickstart a new cruise industry in the region.

If passed, cruise ships would be allowed to engage in casino gambling at least one mile away from Virginia ports or other scheduled stops, providing them with several additional hours for casino activities during their arrival or departure from Virginia.

Advocates emphasize that the ship’s route would be required to include at least one foreign port to prevent the approval of stationary casinos, or ships that would sit in one spot for a prolonged period.

Simonds said the purpose of this legislation is to specifically rule out riverboat-style casinos or alcohol-focused cruises. It is intended for large ships weighing more than 50,000 tons, accommodating at least 2,000 passengers on overnight journeys.

What’s Next for Gambling Bills in Virginia?

The vote on the cruise ship bill doesn’t mean the legislation is fully dead because it’s still advancing in the Virginia Senate. However, according to the Virginia Mercury, it could be a sign that it may be in trouble.

Delegate Paul Krizek pointed out that the state is already dealing with significant questions about how to regulate gambling effectively. Maritime casinos haven’t been included in this already complex discussion.

Krizek was referring to a Senate proposal allowing skill games – devices similar to slot machines where players need to perform a small action to get a payout – that has successfully moved through the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. It is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Finance Committee, while a version of the bill in the House of Delegates has not yet been presented to the gaming subcommittee.

Another Senate proposal, seeking to permit electronic gaming devices (pure games of chance) in convenience stores and truck stops, is currently under review by the Senate’s gaming subcommittee.

We’ll continue to follow the developments of future votes for all three bills. If something changes, Bookmakers Review will provide an update.