Cryptic Language In Virginia Sports Betting Bill Fuels Speculation Of Major League Goals

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Virginia sports betting

A lone paragraph in a 15-page Virginia sports betting bill substitute is raising questions about the influence of pro leagues.

A committee substitute for SB 384 includes language that appears to suggest a new stadium could be built in Virginia for a team in one of the four major leagues. The substitute appeared last week in the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations.

The passage allows the occupant of that stadium the exclusive right to offer retail sports betting in Virginia. Here’s the paragraph drawing attention:

The Director shall issue a permit to operate a sports betting facility only if the applicant (i) is a major league sports franchise, (ii) will conduct sports betting operations at a sports betting facility on which construction began on or after July 1, 2020, and (iii) is otherwise qualified under the provisions of this article.
The bill further defines a “major league sports franchise” as “a professional baseball, basketball, football, or hockey team that is at the highest-level league of play for its respective sport.”

Who benefits from the Virginia sports betting update?

If most politics is local, a likely source for this update is Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. The team’s headquarters sits in Ashburn, Va., and Washington hosts a training camp in Richmond, Va.

The divisive owner reportedly met privately last month with Maryland legislators to push for the ability to offer legal wagering at FedEx Field in Andover, the team’s gameday home.

The discussion of a new stadium for Washington’s NFL franchise heated up in 2019. Washington’s lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027.

The team reportedly will explore sites throughout the region, according to the Baltimore Sun:

Talks are ongoing with Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia on a new stadium that would replace FedEx Field when its lease expires in 2027. Sites near Dulles International Airport in Virginia, National Harbor in Maryland and RFK Stadium in D.C. are the leading candidates …

NFL more likely than other options

The other Washington, D.C.-based franchises appear less likely to hold interest in Virginia. Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is an advocate for legal sports betting and will benefit from the controversial DC sports betting law.

Betting likely will be available inside Capital One Arena via a partnership with William Hill. Leonsis plans for the DC sportsbook to stay open year-round, regardless of whether an event is scheduled.

The Washington Nationals appear entrenched at Nationals Park in the heart of the District as well. The team won the World Series in 2019.

What else is in the VA sports betting bill?

The VA bill calls for between six and 10 permits to operate mobile sports betting platforms. License applications would cost $250,000 each.

Virginia sports betting revenue would be taxed at 15% on adjusted gross revenue. Pro sports interests would score a victory if the official league data provision included makes it through.

McPike sounded less than certain of that in January, saying that provision would be discussed throughout the legislative process. He expressed confidence at the time for the prospects of passing his bill.