VA Sports Betting Enacted After Legislature Approves Recommendations
Legal Sports Report

How Virginia Became Second State To Legalize Sports Betting In 2020

Virginia sports betting

Virginia sports betting is officially legal after overcoming a rocky start and a last-second completion.

Both HB 896 and SB 384 were enacted into law and will be effective July 1. The bills were enacted after the legislature reapproved the bills with various recommendations from Gov. Ralph Northam.

Those recommendations were considered “largely administrative” by Del. Mark Sickles, the sponsor of HB 896.

Virginia sports betting should launch this year as the Virginia Lottery Board is required to complete regulations by no later than Sept. 15.

The state of Washington was the first to legalize in 2020, though it’s unclear if that law will stick. The bill only legalizes sports betting through tribal operators. One cardroom operator, Maverick Gaming, has maintained it will sue over some of the bill’s specifics.

Change to Virginia sports betting vexing operators

There’s one particular recommendation that has operators up in arms.

Northam called for interested sportsbook operators to pay $50,000 to cover background check costs for each principal of their company. That’s in addition to sizable licensing fees.

That might not look like a lot on the surface. But some operators told LSR as many as 20 employees could fall under Virginia’s definition of a principal.

Both Sickles and Sen. Jeremy McPike said the lottery would work to narrow who is actually considered a principal during the regulatory process.

NASCAR inclusion the other major request

The governor also wanted the state’s two NASCAR tracks included in the sports betting process.

Sickles told LSR that could work two ways.

Richmond Raceway and Martinsville Speedway could apply for a sports betting license if they wanted. They could also join forces with one of the licensed sportsbook operators in the state to act as a marketing partner.

The bills originally allowed for any NBA, NHL, NFL or MLB team that relocates to Virginia to obtain a sportsbook license as well.

VA sports betting details

Sportsbooks will pay $250,000 for a three-year license and a 15% revenue tax to operate in the state.

Those operations will be mainly online. The Virginia Lottery will decide how many online-only licenses to award based on the best financial opportunity for the state. There will be a minimum of four and a maximum of 12 online licenses.

Also enacted were the two bills that would legalize casinos in Virginia, which could give five of the 12 licenses to those casinos. That would leave a maximum of seven untethered licenses if all five casinos want sports betting licenses with a minimum of four guaranteed, according to the Virginia Lottery.

Any additional licenses for sports teams or tracks will not count against the license total.

Both sides took their time to agree

There were a couple of variations in the bills from both chambers that led the committee to hash out the differences.

The Senate wanted to limit online operators to 10 with a minimum of six. The House got its way with the previously mentioned range.

But the House lost on their tax proposal of 20% to the Senate’s 15% rate.

Not all details are perfect

Virginia missed a couple of key areas when crafting its sports betting bill.

First, there’s no betting on in-state colleges. Northam clarified through his recommendations that betting on tournaments involving those schools would be allowed.

The law also forces operators to use official league data to settle all in-play 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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