On Thursday, large bipartisan majorities in the General Assembly passed legislation offered by Sens. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) and Roscoe Reynolds (D-Martinsville), designed to crack down on gambling operators who have attempted to exploit a perceived loophole in Virginia's gambling laws.
The bill, on which Obenshain and Reynolds served as chief co-patrons after Reynolds' SB 1164 was incorporated into SB 1195, has passed both chambers.
With Thursday's Senate action on House amendments, it goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell for his signature.
"With the passage of this legislation, Commonwealth's Attorneys will be able to crack down on so-called 'sweepstakes stores' offering casino-style gambling across Virginia," says Obenshain. "These 'sweepstakes stores' try to get around our laws by bundling an insignificant product with their games. People are spending a small fortune on a few minutes of Internet access or a cheap phone card so that they can play slots or video poker. It's a clear end-run on our gambling laws, and this will help put an end to it."
The companion bill in the House of Delegates, HB 1584, has passed both chambers as well, with the House approving the Senate's amendments, which conformed the bills, Wednesday.
The House bill was patroned by Del. Glenn Oder (R-Newport News) and incorporates legislation introduced by Del. Clay Athey (R-Front Royal).
"This bill has undergone a number of changes since it was introduced," says Reynolds. "But the constant has been a desire to shut down these casinos without impeding legitimate businesses. We have succeeded, and I look forward to having the Governor sign SB 1195 into law.
"This has been a group effort every step of the way. Republicans and Democrats, members of the Senate and the House, we all came together to find a way to address the issue."
The bill passed both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan support, clearing the Senate 36-2 (with two abstentions) before passing in the block (98-0) in the House of Delegates.
"When it comes to upholding Virginia's gambling laws, we stand together," says Obenshain.
Senate Bill 1195 and House Bill 1584 now head to McDonnell for his signature.