Virginia lawmakers have historically been opposed to any form of gambling expansion but the promise of new revenue flows to state coffers and keeping gambling money within state confines has resulted in bipartisan support for a duo of bills calling for the legalization of new gambling offerings.
Both chambers of the Virginia Legislature passed on Sunday HB 896 and SB 384 that authorize the introduction of retail and online sports betting and permit the construction of up to four casinos around the state.
The two pieces should now be signed by Governor Ralph Northam in order to become law.
Limited Retail Sportsbooks, Betting Apps Could Go Live by Late 2020
The Sunday passage of the two bills makes Virginia the latest state to enter the US sports betting frenzy.
The two pieces pave the way for the start of mobile sports betting by the end of the year. However, the introduction of retail sportsbooks could take a little longer. In addition, under the bills there would be limited number of retail betting licenses up for grabs.
The Virginia Lottery is now tasked with regulating the state’s newly expanded gambling industry. The agency is required to set the rules under which sports betting services would be provided in Virginia by mid-September.
Under the recently passed sports betting bill, the Lottery’s Director “may issue from four to twelve permits at one time and is directed to issue an amount of permits that would maximize tax revenue collected pursuant to the bill.”
The introduction of casino gambling to state residents would take longer, though, as the development of casinos requires voter referendums in the cities of Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond. Such referendums can take place as early as this coming November.
Under the sports betting bill, wagering would be taxed at 15% on gross revenue. In addition, authorized operators would be required to use official league data.
Lawmakers Ban Betting on Virginia College Sports
Betting on college sports and whether it should be banned or at least limited was among the most widely debated topics on Sunday. The sports betting bill’s provisions regarding college wagering could have derailed the entire effort if opponents and proponents had failed to reach some sort of compromise.
An original version of the Senate sports betting bill authorized betting on all college sports. However, some House lawmakers called for a total ban on betting on college sports.
The final version of the bill that is now heading to Gov. Northam’s desk prohibits wagering on collegiate games involving Virginia teams and placing prop bets on any individual college athlete.
While many welcomed the restrictions, Virginia Delegate Marcus Simon argued that those would allow an illegal market to continue to thrive and that this is actually “more damaging” than enabling bettors to place wagers on Virginia’s teams in a legal setting.