Lawmakers to file bill for law changes making way for casino; Bristol voters to have final say

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Southwest Virginia lawmakers say the people of Bristol will have the final say on a proposed casino project as soon as November 2019.

Thursday afternoon, Virginia Senator Bill Carrico and Delegate Israel O’Quinn outlined a timeline for introducing legislation connected to the Bristol Casino project.

Developers want to open a casino in the former Bristol Mall, but first Virginia law would have to be changed to allow for casino gambling.

Carrico and O’Quinn said the legislation will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session and, if approved in the House and Senate, could be enacted as soon as July 1, 2019.

But the lawmakers said any legislation they bring for consideration must include a public referendum.   That would give people in the city where developers want to build a casino – in this case, Bristol, Virginia –  the final say over whether the project moves forward.

The next public referendum would be held in November 5, 2019.  

“If this fails at the ballot box, it all kind of poofs into thin air,” said Delegate Israel O’Quinn.  “Bristol is a small city…We want the people to be able to decide their future.”

O’Quinn told reporters at a Thursday afternoon news conference he thinks chances are high for passage of the legislation.

The project would involve no state funding, only private investor dollars.   “I will say the investors have bent over backwards to address our major concerns,” said Sen. Bill Carrico who told News Channel 11 his support for the project depended on the fact it involved no public money, only private investment dollars.

Sen. Carrico said Bristol and surrounding Southwest Virginia communities face a financially dire situation, so he found it impossible to ignore a project that could bring more than 5000 jobs and a billion-dollar financial impact over seven years.

“We’re the last two lawmakers you would think would carry a gambling bill,” Carrico said. 

The following is a statement from Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy: 
 

“We want to thank Senator Carrico and Delegate O’Quinn for their leadership on this important issue benefiting the residents of Bristol, Southwest Virginia and the entire region.  As patrons of the legislation that will allow the Bristol Resort and Casino project to go forward, Senator Carrico and Delegate O’Quinn are helping to bring an unprecedented number of new jobs and additional tax revenue to the region for much needed public services.  These dollars will fund a host of critical local needs, including more money for public safety, education, transportation and other key public services.

As part of our commitment to ensuring this project makes our community better, we have initiated a comprehensive security review of the Bristol Mall site and its intended future uses.  The security team conducting the review is made up of retired federal, state and local law enforcement professionals who will engage with local and state public safety officials to create a true public-private partnership. Our assessment will include a review of any available training, grants and resources requested and needed by the public safety community.  We plan to take all necessary and proactive steps to ensure our guests will enjoy a safe and welcoming environment.

As part of this legislation, voters in Bristol, VA will have an opportunity to approve the project in a local referendum.  Local residents will be able to cast a vote to bring long-term, secure career opportunities to the City and region.  As life-long residents of Southwest Virginia, we look forward to working with our elected leaders at the local and state levels to make this significant economic development project a reality.”

– Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy

News Channel 11’s Jackie DeFusco is covering the story.  Look for her reports starting on the news at 5:00 p.m. 

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