Delegate Israel O’Quinn listens as State Senator Bill Carrico briefs reporters on plans for the bills to authorize a referendum in Bristol on the casino. Photo by Scott Robertson
By Scott Robertson
Calling themselves the two least likely Virginia state legislators to carry gambling legislation, Delegate Israel O’Quinn and State Senator Bill Carrico announced they would, nevertheless, do just that. At a news conference at the Birthplace of Country Music Nov. 29, the two said they would introduce bills between the Jan, 9 start of the 2019 legislative session and the Jan. 18 filing deadline which would, if passed, allow citizens of Bristol to vote up or down on whether to allow a casino to be built there.
The two lawmakers agreed that expansion of legalized gambling is a virtual certainty within the next couple of years in the Commonwealth, if not this year. With that being the case, Bristol needs to be ahead of the game if its citizens want to move forward with the casino. Likewise, if the citizens want to vote against a casino, now’s the time.
The general assembly will consider the bills during the session slated to end April 3. Should the bills pass, the city of Bristol would be expected to hold the referendum at its first opportunity, likely Nov. 5, 2019, already an election day. While neither Carrico nor O’Quinn appeared eager to take a stand on either side of the question of whether the casino is what’s best for Bristol, both said holding a referendum is the right way to decide the question.
“What we have heard is, ‘If we are going to go down this path, then we want to have a say here.’” O’Quinn said. “Having local people be able to decide a local issue, especially one of this size, with so much at stake on the positive and negative sides of the coin, is the right way to go.”