Bills Expanding Virginia Sports Betting Headed To Governor’s Desk

Posted on March 1, 2021 - Last Updated on May 18, 2021
Virginia sports betting
Posted By on March 1, 2021
Last Updated on May 18, 2021

Two bills that will expand the already live Virginia sports betting market are just a few steps from the governor’s desk.

HB 1847 from Del. Mark Sickles and SB 1254 from Sen. Jeremy McPike were identical bills at the beginning of the session. The bills clarified a few details from last year’s enabling sports betting legislation, including which VA sports betting licenses counted against a mobile-license limit and betting on amateur sports.

The House threw the process for a bit of a loop, however, when it requested language to promote minority participation in the process. The Senate initially rejected the language but eventually accepted the House version after input from the Virginia Lottery.

The House accepted the conference report for both bills Friday with the Senate following suit Saturday. The proposals are awaiting signatures from the House Speaker and Senate President before hitting Gov. Ralph Northam‘s desk.

Incoming Virginia sports betting changes

There are a couple of significant changes coming from the legislation.

First, mobile sports betting licenses for casinos won’t count against the cap of 12 mobile-only licenses. Those licenses are for competitive bid only with just two awarded so far.

That was the intention of last year’s enabling legislation but the text didn’t reflect that. The two sponsors also intended for Olympic betting to be allowed, though that was not allowed at first by the Virginia Lottery.

The bills also give the Lottery authority to approve new markets so future legislation won’t be necessary.

Minority ownership now considered in licensing

For the up to 10 remaining mobile-only licenses, minority participation will now be given “substantial and preferred consideration:”

In issuing permits to operate sports betting platforms prior to July 1, 2025, the Director shall give substantial and preferred consideration to any applicant that demonstrates in its application (i) a description of any equity interest owned by minority individuals or minority-owned businesses, (ii) a detailed plan to achieve increased minority equity investment, (iii) a description of all efforts made to seek equity investment from minority individuals or minority-owned businesses, or (iv) a plan detailing efforts made to solicit participation of minority individuals or minority-owned businesses in the applicant’s purchase of goods and services related to the sports betting platform or to provide assistance to a historically disadvantaged community or historically black colleges and universities located within the Commonwealth.

The two sides went to conference over the language because there was concern the new wording could affect licenses already handed out. With the Lottery assuring the conference that wasn’t the case, the Senate accepted the language.

Virginia sports betting launches have stalled

Sports betting in VA launched Jan. 21 when the FanDuel Virginia Sportsbook went live in the state.

DraftKings Sportsbook in Virginia joined the market that Sunday. Those two sportsbooks were part of a busy opening weekend for both Virginia and online sports betting in Michigan. Data from Geocomply showed 7.5 million geolocation transactions from more than 400,000 accounts across the two states that weekend.

BetMGM, BetRivers and William Hill Virginia were all approved by Jan. 27, but there’s been no action since then, likely because of these bills making their way through the legislature.

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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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