Two Bills, One Goal As Differing Virginia Sports Betting Legislation Advances

Posted on February 10, 2020

It was a busy day for Virginia sports betting as the House and Senate each passed a bill – but they don’t quite match up.

HB 896 from Del. Mark Sickles passed the House on a 70-27 vote while SB 384 from Sen. Jeremy McPike passed the Senate 27-12. Both chambers are moving quickly this year as the session closes Mar. 7.

The bills differ in a few spots with one big difference for the House bill – no betting on in-state college teams.

But professional teams could have a presence in Virginia after all. The two bills include a stipulation that physical sports betting locations would only be awarded to a professional sports franchise.

The Senate bill requires that professional team be from MLB, NHL, NFL or NBA, while the House bill would allow any professional team.

Finer details of Virginia sports betting bills

The House version of the online-only sports betting bill differs slightly from SB 384, which McPike thinks has the votes to pass this year.

For instance, HB 896 could result in more or fewer mobile applications. The bill calls for at least four to as many as 12 compared to between six and 10 in the Senate.

As for taxes, HB 896 would tax revenue at 20%. McPike’s bill originally called for the same before amending that to 15%.

No Virginia college betting or in-play college betting

The biggest drawback of HB 896 is the lack of betting on Virginia’s colleges. That part of the bill came from incorporating HB 911 from Del. Marcus Simon.

That, of course, doesn’t mean no one in the state will bet on the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech. Instead, the ban on in-state college betting means those dollars will either go to neighboring states with legal wagering or will remain with illegal offshore operators.

The bill also bans in-play betting on all college sports.

Official league data required too

Both bills bear the blemish of requiring official league data to settle in-play bets.

Whether or not that remains is yet to be seen. McPike mentioned the use of official league data is still part of the process.

“Not sure where the final version is going to end up,” he said. “We’ve asked, certainly, for any additional language from the stakeholders.”

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Matthew Waters

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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