The push to legalize sports betting is sweeping through state capitols as legislatures gear up for next year. Now it has made its way to Virginia where a state lawmaker plans on introducing a sports betting bill next year.
“I think there is an appetite for this,” Delegate Marcus Simon told FOX 5 DC. “I think there is certainly a revenue opportunity in Virginia.”
Simon plans on introducing a Virginia sports betting bill in January when the 2019 legislative session begins.
Gauging the Virginia sports betting market
“We already see a lot of our residents’ dollars go across the river to MGM – we lose out on a lot of opportunities to capture some of that revenue,” Simon said.
MGM National Harbor which is on the banks of the Potomac River, is a short drive from Washington, D.C. Lawmakers there are also considering a sports betting bill of their own.
Not only does DC have the support of all its councilmembers but Mayor Muriel Bowser is also on board. Sports wagering in the Nation’s Capital might be a reality in 2019.
In Virginia, however, Governor Ralph Northam has remained neutral on the issue.
“Governor Northam believes any future proposal to expand sports gaming here in Virginia should be considered with the input of the General Assembly and the communities that will be impacted,” said Ofirah Yheskel, a spokesperson for the governor.
Sportsbook game plan without casinos
Much like DC, Virginia has no casinos. Simon believes sportsbooks could factor in to racetracks and off-track betting locations (OTB). How remains unknown at this point.
Currently VA has no racetracks in operations. But according to the Richmond Times Dispatch, Colonial Downs is aiming for a March 2019 re-opening. That facility would utilize historical horse racing, a form of gambling based on wagering on past races. The state legislature approved such gaming earlier this year.
A similar idea is being floated around by DC Councilmember Jack Evans, who envisions sportsbooks at sports arenas, bars and hotels.
“I think you can probably find a way to combine sportsbooks with the existing horse racing and off-track betting that exist,” Simon said. “And there is probably a way to facilitate online sports gaming as well.”
2019 the year of sports betting bills?
If lawmakers do introduce legislation to legalize VA sportsbooks next year, it will be part of a caravan of other states looking to do that same.
Simon says his bill would legalize sports betting as of July 2019. Ever since the US Supreme Court ruled PASPA to be unconstitutional, states have been looking to capitalize on sports betting outside of Nevada.
Neighboring Maryland failed to put a sports betting referendum on the November ballot, but lawmakers are hopeful voters could decide on the issue in 2020.