Virginia's Session Ends March 7
Legal Sports Report

Virginia Sports Betting Could Happen If House, Senate Can Compromise

Virginia sports betting

A political tug-of-war might be all the stands in the way of Virginia sports betting passing the legislature this session.

The House and the Senate can’t seem to move on from their own bills. When HB 896 and SB 384 crossed over to the other chamber, they were immediately replaced with the chamber’s bill.

The two sides agreed to a conference committee but there’s not much time left. Virginia’s legislative session ends Saturday. Sen. Jeremy McPike, the sponsor of SB 384, said he thinks the votes are there to get sports betting passed this year.

There’s no official schedule but the committee has likely already met to discuss the bills.

Who’s on Virginia sports betting committee

McPike and Del. Mark Sickles, the sponsor of HB 896, are naturally on the committee.

Joining McPike from the Senate is Monty Mason and Todd Pillion. Marcus Simon and Will Morefield represent the House with Sickles.

Simon also penned a sports betting bill this year that was eventually worked into HB 896. It, unfortunately, included a ban on in-state college betting which made its way into HB 896.

In-state college ban would hurt tax revenue

Mobile-only sports betting could generate $400 million in revenue at maturity, according to a study by The Innovation Group and Regulatory Management Counselors.

But the study also maintains college betting tends to make up the majority of wagers in states without professional sports. Legalizing sports betting without the ability to bet on the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech in March Madness would miss the point.

McPike acknowledged betting on college sports already happens in Virginia, adding it’s better to get it out into the open.

Differences between the two VA bills

Aside from the in-state college ban, the House bill would also ban all live betting completely on college sports.

As for potential operators, the Senate wants at least six and as many as 10 licenses. The House is calling for at least four to as many as 12 licenses.

The House wants a 20% revenue tax while the Senate wants a 15% revenue tax.

While the bills are mainly mobile-only, a professional sports team would be allowed to open a physical sportsbook in the state. Most speculation suggests that team would be the Washington Redskins, as owner Daniel Snyder plays Virginia and Maryland against each other as a future home of the team.

Who those teams might be depends on the chamber. The Senate limited those professional teams to the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL while the House would allow any professional team.

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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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