VIRGINIA (WRIC) — The Virginia Lottery Board approved proposed permanent casino gaming regulations on Wednesday and now the next leg of the approval process goes to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk.

If the governor approves, there will be a 60-day public comment period that will lead up to final approval by the Lottery Board.

The initial emergency casino regulations were approved by the board on February 3.

“The Lottery’s Gaming Compliance Department and Office of General Counsel have been diligently working to set up the regulatory and licensing framework to ensure casino gaming in Virginia is secure and transparent,” said Virginia Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall in a press release. “In this role, we see the Lottery as the public’s watchdog, confirming that the law and regulations are followed, and the integrity of casino gambling is protected.”

The Virginia General Assembly gave five “economically distressed” localities permission to build casinos

As of July 2021, there are four proposed land-based casinos in Virginia in Bristol, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Danville. Voters approved those casinos in local elections last November.

Following the vote, proposed casinos in Bristol, Norfolk, Danville and Portsmouth may apply for official casino licensing. The board expects to award licenses around summer of 2020.

Lottery officials say they’ve hired 22 investigators to comb through applications.

The board estimated Wednesday that final regulatory approval was estimated for May 2022, but the approval could mean a delay for Hard Rock’s proposed site in Bristol.

Hard Rock originally proposed to open a temporary casino at the end of 2021, but the new regulatory timeline could mean the Bristol temporary casino wouldn’t open until a year later.

In a statement, a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Bristol Spokesperson says they are committed to opening the location as soon as possible.

That statement reads as follows:

“We remain committed to opening the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol as soon as possible.  We will be ready to move forward as soon as we receive all the required approvals from the Virginia Lottery.  We are actively engaged in ongoing local efforts to prepare for opening a resort that will bring thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in additional tax revenue to Bristol.”

ONE Casino + Resort in Richmond is on a different timetable and has yet to be approved by voters. The November 2021 ballot is expected to contain a vote on the casino referendum.

The application period for casino operators opened in April 2021 and the Virginia Lottery has conducted a review of each with comprehensive checks of criminal history and financial review.