New Virginia Sports Betting Bill Adds Items It Meant To Add Last Year

Posted on January 19, 2021
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Written By on January 19, 2021

One of the authors of last year’s Virginia sports betting bill wants to add some items he thought were in the bill that first legalized sportsbooks.

Del. Mark Sickles wrote HB 1847 to clean up some inconsistencies from last year’s legislation that legalized VA sports betting.

That includes adding five more online-only licenses and opening up Olympic events for betting. The substitute reported Tuesday from the House ABC-Gaming subcommittee advances to the full General Laws committee.

“The bill I have today is 100% technical in that what’s in here … are things that we thought we passed last year,” Sickles told the subcommittee.

A total of 25 sportsbook operators applied for the dozen or so licenses available in the state. The Virginia Lottery is still pushing for the first operators to be live in time for Super Bowl betting.

Proposed Virginia sports betting changes

Sickles’ legislation offers some simple tweaks that could lead to five additional online-only operators in the state. The bill rewrites the law to say any licenses awarded to major sports franchises or casino operators would not count against the maximum of 12 online-only operators.

Previously, it was understood the Lottery was essentially choosing between four and seven online-only licenses with those five counting against the cap.

“Those potentially five casinos were not to count against the upper limit of 12 licenses, but the lottery did not read it that way,” Sickles said. “… That is not what we intended.”

Sickles’ bill also clarifies that casinos can have retail sportsbooks and not just operate through a mobile app.

Olympic betting should be allowed

Along with adding more operators to the industry, Sickles also wants to clarify that betting on the Olympics is allowed. The new bill explains how youth sports are different than Olympic competitions.

The Lottery denied multiple operator requests to include Olympic betting in the regulations. At the time, a Lottery spokesperson confirmed that could change through legislation.

The Virginia Lottery is in favor of Sickles’ proposed changes, Executive Director Kevin Hall said at the virtual meeting.

Four confirmed casino operators so far

Voters already confirmed four of the possible five casinos in Virginia during November’s election.

That means we likely know three sportsbooks that will get licensed:

  • BetRivers parent Rush Street will run the casino in Portsmouth.
  • Hard Rock will operate the casino in Bristol. The company recently launched its own digital gaming arm for sports betting and iGaming.
  • William Hill is on the verge of being acquired by Caesars, which will operate the casino in Danville.

The Pamunkey Indians will operate the casino in Norfolk and are the preferred partner in Richmond as well, though the tribe hasn’t said who it will work with for sports betting.

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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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