A legislative study suggests mobile sports betting revenue in Virginia could approach $400 million at maturity in 2028.
The study, conducted by The Innovation Group and Regulatory Management Counselors in conjunction with the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, looked at multiple scenarios for Virginia sports betting.
Per the study, a completely open market with casinos, parimutuels, and mobile operators offering sports betting would generate $462 million in annual revenue. That would send about $55 million to the state at a 12% tax rate.
Mobile alone, however, would generate revenue of $399 million — or $48 million in taxes. The study also surmised that sports betting seems to work best where there’s an open, competitive market for operators.
The study was required as part of the passage of SB 1126 this year. The bill would authorize up to five casinos in the state and give the Pamunkey Indians exclusive access to the Norfolk and Richmond markets.
Legalizing Virginia casino gaming in 2020?
The appetite to pass a gaming bill seems similar to last year but is by no means a slam dunk, Del. Barry Knight said.
Knight worked with Sen. Louise Lucas and Sen. Tom Norment Jr. in 2019 to get the initial bill passed. Both Knight and Lucas submitted new bills for 2020 with re-enactment clauses that allow the process to continue.
According to Knight, this year’s gambling bills will rely on most of the findings from the study. There’s no requirement to stick to it, though.
The movement has bipartisan support — Lucas is a Democrat and Knight and Norment are Republicans. Last year’s bill found its primary support among Democrats in the Senate, with bipartisan support in the House.
Virginia citizens, however, will get the last say. No casino licenses will be approved for any city unless voters pass a local referendum first.
Mobile sports betting only in VA?
If Virginia decided to launch sports betting before casinos (or not legalize casinos at all), a mobile implementation could work.
Without casinos, Virginia would be limited in where sports betting could be conducted. Parimutuels in the state are all owned by one company, Colonial Downs. That could eliminate the open and competitive market the study said was most beneficial.
Allowing Colonial Downs to use multiple licenses to facilitate entry for more than one operator could “enhance revenue potential through competition,” the study found.
A mobile-only model would allow for the fastest implementation. The market could potentially be mature before casinos even begin opening in 2024, the study found.
There were four sports betting bills introduced in Virginia last year, including wagering via mobile devices, parimutuels, and the lottery.
More VA gaming study details
Some of the finer points of the study:
- Some members of the Council of Presidents expressed concerns over betting on in-state collegiate sports. The study noted that states without major professional sports teams (like Virginia) typically get the majority of handle from college games.
- The study forecast total casino gaming revenue at $969 million in 2025, with $262 million going to the state. That’s based on a 27% net gaming tax, which is the median rate across states with casinos.
- A lower tax rate would create just modest additional economic impacts.
- Online casino games could generate up to $84 million in tax revenue annually. That assumes $311 million in total revenue at a 27% tax.