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City Council last night took the next step necessary for a referendum on casino gaming to be added to the ballot in November by voting to submit Caesars Virginia to state lottery officials as the City’s preferred gaming operator.
Under casino legislation adopted by the Virginia General Assembly, the City must submit its preferred casino gaming operator to the Virginia Lottery Board. The board has 45 days to decide whether to approve the City’s choice.
If the Lottery Board approves the city’s selection, the next step would be for City Council to ask the circuit court if a referendum can be put on the ballot.
Caesars Virginia is a subsidiary of Caesar’s Entertainment. Last month, City officials announced that it was in negotiations with Caesars Entertainment to be its preferred casino gaming operator.
A definitive agreement with Caesars has not yet been finalized. Still, the vote last night by City Council authorizes the city manager to execute a non-binding letter of intent with Caesars and to submit that letter to the Virginia Lottery Board.
The resort is proposed to be located at the former Dan River Mills industrial complex in Schoolfield, with an anticipated capital investment of more than $400 million and the creation of 1,300 jobs with competitive benefits packages and average wages between $35,000 and $47,000 annually. It includes plans for up to 500 hotel rooms, a 35,000 square-foot conference center, a 2,500-seat live entertainment venue, multiple restaurants and bars, and 2,000 slot machines, 75 table games (blackjack, etc.), 16 poker tables, and a sportsbook.
Until residents cast their vote for or against the referendum, plans for the casino simply remain a proposal.
The City Council’s action last night took place in a virtual meeting, with Council members and City staff logging in remotely.
Citizens were able to view the meeting on River City TV, the city’s government access channel. River City TV aired both the business and work sessions on cable and streaming on the River City TV Facebook page.
The city is under a local state of emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The emergency declaration enables meetings to proceed virtually.
In addition to the casino resolution, City Council voted to maintain the real estate tax at 84 cents on every $100 of assessed value for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Also, the City Council held three first readings, including one on the fiscal year 2020 proposed City budget. The proposed budget may be examined online.
A first reading is an introductory step required by City Code before some issues can be voted upon by City Council. This step serves to provide public notice of pending action. City Council is expected to vote on the budget at its June 16 meeting.
The other two votes involved supplemental federal funds for costs incurred during the coronavirus pandemic. City Council is expected to vote on these two items also at its June 16 meeting.
Mayor Alonzo Jones issued a proclamation for Business Appreciation Week, which will be June 8-12.
These matters took place during the Council’s business session. Following the business session, the Council met in a work session. In work sessions, Council reviews non-routine matters that will be voted upon in future business meetings.
In last night’s work session, Council discussed appointments to boards and commissions, changes to the personnel system, an agreement with the City of Eden for water and wastewater services for the Southern Virginia Mega Site at Berry Hill, and designation of seats under the canopy of the Carrington Pavilion as a no-smoking area.
Also, the City Council held a closed meeting as allowed by state law to discuss a prospective business or industry related to economic development and to discuss the acquisition of real property or disposition of publicly held real property.