Northam’s NASCAR Tweak Delays Virginia Sports Betting Bill Passage

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Virginia sports betting

Many hoped Virginia sports betting would be law by now. That’s not the case, but it doesn’t appear to be far from happening.

Instead of signing VA sports betting into law, Gov. Ralph Northam had multiple recommendations for the bill. The legislature will consider those changes at a reconvened session scheduled for April 22.

While this technically puts sports betting sites in Virginia on a less certain standing than it was in front of the governor, the changes don’t appear to be that detrimental for its chances of passage. The changes are relatively minor, aside from more sports franchises that could offer wagering.

Biggest changes to Virginia sports betting

The most significant difference from Northam’s suggestions is looping in NASCAR tracks to the definition of a “major league sports franchise.”

The bill laid out an opportunity for teams to get a sports betting license. That previously only included the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and Major League Soccer.

Now, tracks like Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway could launch their own sports betting operations, including online.

Northam also wants to raise the costs for operators that want to launch in Virginia. Now, the companies have to pay $50,000 for every principal that requires a background check to cover the costs. Those companies can be charged more later should the background checks go over budget.

None of the changes are significant enough to sink the hopes of sports betting in the state, according to Del. Marcus Simon. He helped craft the proposition that eventually hit Northam’s desk.

What’s allowed under current bill

It took a significant amount of effort to get to where the chances for legalized Virginia sports betting are right now.

It seemed like both chambers were at a stalemate early in the year between SB 384 and HB 896. When the bills crossed over to opposite chambers, both instead swapped out the text to match the bill that originated in their respective chambers.

That led to a conference committee to work out the differences.

Details from the compromise

What emerged could lead to a pretty decent sports betting market for Virginia. There will be between four and 12 online-only licenses, an additional five licenses for casinos in the state (should HB 4 pass the legislature after recommendations from Northam) and a license for each sports betting franchise that comes to Virginia.

The bill allowing Virginia mobile sports betting does have a few downsides, however. First, there’s no betting on in-state colleges. In one of Northam’s recommendations, the bill will make clear that betting on tournaments involving those schools will still be allowed.

The other big downside is the required use of official league data for all in-play betting.