When the calendar turns to 2019, keep an eye to the east for Virginia sports betting.
Rumblings are just surfacing now, but it appears Virginia might make a run at approving legal sports betting at next year’s legislature.
“You’re going to see a big push in the General Assembly session, probably the beginning of this year,” Virginia Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne said last week according to a report in the Virginian-Pilot. “Because, as you all know, there are significant monies involved in (sports gambling) – very significant.”
Very early in the game
Layne’s comments took place at a public meeting of the state’s lottery. They appear to be informed speculation not yet backed by any concrete action in Virginia.
Legal sports betting in Virginia remains in infant stages. A report published last year by gaming research firm Eilers & Krejcik suggested that Virginia could be among a first-mover group of states to legalize sports betting within two years.
The neighbors are on the move …
Virginia still would be playing catch-up in its region if it adds sports betting in the near future. Delaware sports betting went live last month, making the state the first to add sports wagering after the Supreme Court repealed PASPA in May.
West Virginia should go live before football season after approving sports betting earlier this year. New Jersey is not terribly far away either, and the Garden State started its sports betting operation soon after Delaware.
Gambling scarce in Virginia
This is not a state with a demonstrated appetite for gambling. In fact, Virginia features very little legal gambling and its legislature does not have a strong track record of supporting it, according to the Virginian-Pilot:
For years, the state has been strongly anti-gambling. Over the past decades, the state has rejected the practice at internet cafes, on riverboats and in any type of casino — but the tide has changed in recent years.
The state took a small step toward legal gambling in its legislature this year with approval of historical horse racing machines. The instant racing terminals allow betting on horse racing from years gone by, and will operate at former racing track Colonial Downs outside of Richmond. They also will run at off-track betting sites throughout the state.
Revolutionary Racing recently purchased the once-shuttered Colonial Downs for $20 million and plans a major renovation that hinged on approval of the instant racing terminals. The track previously operated from 1997-2014.