Neither VA Bill Is Quite Perfect
Legal Sports Report

The Insidious Elements In New Competing Virginia Sports Betting Bills

Virginia sports betting

The House of Delegates currently has its pick of two Virginia sports betting bills that call for lottery oversight but have little else in common.

Both of the bills allow for mobile VA sports betting. A Virginia gaming study forecasted mobile sports betting would generate nearly $400 million in annual revenue.

Both have some downsides. HB 896 calls for use of official league data when the league requests it for in-play betting. HB 911, meanwhile, bans college betting.

The bills also authorize the sale of lottery tickets over the internet.

When official league data is the better bill …

HB 896 looks to be the better of the two bills on the surface. It has a companion bill, SB 384, which was already referred to the General Laws and Technology committee.

Dive into the details and flaws emerge though. The biggest is the official league data clause being sought nationwide by the NBA and MLB.

The data would have to be available from more than one authorized source at “commercially reasonable terms.”

Tax rate among the upper level

The tax rate isn’t perfect, either, at 20% of adjusted revenue.

The bill would allow up to 10 mobile sports betting operators but all might not get licensed. It’s up to the Virginia Lottery to decide the right amount of permits that will maximize the state’s tax revenue.

Those operators would pay $250,000 for a three-year permit with a $200,000 renewal fee.

College betting allowed

The biggest plus of HB 896/SB 384 is the inclusion of college betting. There’s no restriction on those college bets, either, meaning betting on in-state schools would be allowed.

That’s significant considering Virginia has no professional sports teams. That suggests those in-state schools might see some of the highest handle.

College betting banned under second bill

HB 911 appears to be more attractive from the tax standpoint, but that’s about it. The bill calls for a 10% tax on adjusted revenue, but allows for no college betting at all.

The bill also does not define how many operators could be licensed. There’s just a $5,000 application fee, which would qualify among the lower fees charged nationwide.

How much Virginia sports betting could generate

Virginia legislators required last year a gaming study to look into what revenue the state could generate with five casinos and Virginia sports betting.

The study found sports betting at multiple retail locations including those five casinos and parimutuel tracks would generate $462 million in annual revenue.

But $399 million of that would come from mobile alone. A mobile-only format would also get sports betting in Virginia started much quicker.

The study also found that an open and competitive market was best for VA sports betting.

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- Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.
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