Updated: August 2, 2021
Virginia’s decision to legalize sports betting is still one of the more surprising developments in the post-PASPA era. However, by passing two relevant bills in April 2020, Virginia lawmakers paved the way for a January 2021 launch.
Legalizing sports betting in the Old Dominion presented a logistical problem, however, since there were no casinos of any size in the Commonwealth. So, its debut marked only the second time a state launched sports betting as an online-only industry, after Tennessee. So far, it hasn’t been a problem. The eight active apps in the state are on pace to collect roughly $2 billion in wagers in just the first year of operation.
However, in the course of legalizing sports betting in 2020, the Virginia Assembly also provided for the placement of five retail casinos in designated cities, each with the potential to host a sportsbook in the future. So, Virginia’s shift on gambling extends far beyond a desire to bet on the Washington Football Team.
In the meantime, the market continues to grow and new players are likely to come to the state. Read on for the latest on legal sports betting in Virginia.
Legal VA online sportsbooks
Best sports betting apps in Virginia
State law mandates that there will be a minimum of four and a maximum of 12 VA sportsbook mobile-only apps available.
FanDuel Sportsbook launched first, and DraftKings Sportsbook, BetMGM, Caesars, and BetRivers in Virginia followed closely. More sportsbooks will offer a mobile betting app in Virginia.
Generally speaking, more sportsbooks in a given state lead to a better market. Competition to gain customers often leads to sportsbooks offering better signup offers and promo codes. These can include free bets or deposit matches, ranging from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars.
You do not need to live in Virginia to bet on sports in the state. You will, however, need to be physically located in the state to place a wager legally. Your smartphone device will use geolocation technology to verify that you are within Virginia before allowing you to bet online.
Here’s some more information on the biggest sportsbooks that have found their way into Virginia:
The sportsbook from MGM Resorts International has been similarly aggressive entering every online sports betting state it can. It will not have a brick-and-mortar casino in the state, but does have one in neighboring Maryland. The BetMGM Virginia app was released in January 2021.
New accounts qualify for up to $1,000 risk-free bet.
BetRivers parent Rush Street Interactive partnered with the upcoming Rivers Casino Portsmouth to launch sports betting in Virginia. The brick-and-mortar casino will come later but the mobile platform is available now.
Bettors receive a comparable bonus offer to that available in other states, up to $250.
DraftKings, a leader in both daily fantasy sports and sports betting in the US, has been aggressive about getting into every state possible, and the Virginia DraftKings sportsbook went live in January 2021.
If you’re a new bettor, you can receive $50 free, plus up to an addition $1,000 in bonus offers.
FanDuel is the current US leader among all sportsbooks in terms of amount wagered, Virginia is an obvious choice for the FanDuel sports betting app. The app provides weekly promotions, daily odds boosts and a live betting tool.
Bettors in the state get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet upon a first deposit.
Unibet is a well-known sports betting brand internationally. It found its way into the US only recently when it launched in Pennsylavnia, New Jersey, and Indiana. The Unibet Virginia app arrived in April 2021.
New users in Virginia get a bonus that is similar to other states with a risk-free bet of up to $600.
Caesars bought William Hill in 2020 and will build the casino in Danville in the future. One plus one equals a VA sportsbook from Caesars, a multi-state operator with a growing interest in expanding its sports betting footprint throughout the country.
WynnBet launched a VA sports betting app on Mar. 11, 2021 in partnership with NASCAR. The sportsbook is the official online sportsbook for the Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway.
WynnBet offers a risk-free first bet of up to $1,000.
No retail sportsbooks in VA yet
As Virginia sports betting launches, there aren’t any physical sportsbooks. Part of the reason why? Virginia casinos were approved in 2020 referendums and will be built in the coming years. And there should be sportsbooks at those casinos eventually.
There could also be physical sportsbooks at sporting venues, like Virginia’s two auto racing tracks.
There will be five casinos in Virginia with physical sportsbooks. Four of those casinos have already been decided through 2020 referendums:
- Bristol voters approved the development of a Hard Rock casino. Hard Rock is not yet licensed for mobile betting in the state
- Danville voters approved the development of a Caesars casino. The company owns and operates a mobile platform.
- Norfolk voters approved the development of a casino by the Pamunkey Indians. They have not selected a sports betting partner yet.
- Portsmouth voters approved the development of a Rush Street casino. Rush Street’s betting partner, BetRivers, is already live in the state.
There are three bidders remaining for the casino in Richmond: Bally’s, Cordish Cos. and Urban One and Colonial Downs. Bally’s is already licensed for a mobile sportsbook but is not yet live.
Latest VA sports betting news
How to start betting in Virginia
Here is a quick overview of how legal betting apps work in VA.
- Decide which app or apps you want to try. There is no shortage of options in Virginia.
- Download the sportsbook app of your choice. VA sportsbooks have apps available for both iPhones and Android devices.
- Sign up for an account. The registration process requires your name, address and the last four digits of your Social Security number to verify you are who you say you are, and that you are of age — 21 years or older to bet in Virginia.
- Fund your account. There are a number of ways to fund accounts, from online banking transfers to pre-paid cards.
From there you just start using the app and find the bets you want to make. You will have a wide variety of choices of what you can bet on once you get started.
Depositing and withdrawing at Virginia sportsbooks
The methods for funding your account will vary by the sportsbook you use. But here are the common ones that bettors employ at most online sportsbooks:
- Online banking
- Electronic Check
- Pre-paid cards
- PayNearMe (funding method at 7-Eleven and select other stores)
- Credit cards
- Debit cards
Although a credit card may seem like a good option, they are also more likely not to work than the other methods. So you might want to start with something other than a credit card.
Live betting options in Virginia
One of the most interesting things about states that allow online betting as Virginia does is the option for live betting, or in-game.
While most people associate sports wagering with bets that are placed before a game begins, a growing part of the betting industry is betting while the games are going on.
Virginia sportsbook apps will offer a wide variety of live betting markets that are updated throughout the game, such as:
- Points spreads
- Over-under point totals
- Results of a quarter or a half
- Proposition bets on player performance
Sportsbook promos and bonuses in Virginia
With a competitive online sportsbook market, the companies will do everything they can to attract your attention. The early days for legal sports betting are usually the best time for bettors to take advantage of these offers. Companies are trying to carve about marketshare early and will often be aggressive with their offers.
What might you find?
- Risk-free bets: Upon a first depoosit, a bettor will get a free bet often of equal value. You can use that bet to place a wager. Win, and you win as normal. Lose, and you get your bet back in the form of a credit on the sportsbook to be used for future wagers.
- Deposit match bonuses: This bonus lets a user get money added to their account for betting, up to the amount of the deposit. (There’s usually a cap on the amount.) The money can’t be immediately withdrawn but can be used for wagers. Once a bettor has met the playthrough requirement — this is different at every book — the money can be withdrawn. That’s assuming of course that the bettor won some amount of the bonus bets.
- No-deposit bonuses: Not ready to deposit? Some sportsbooks will give you a small amount of money just for trying them out. The money can’t just be withdrawn and must be wagered.
- Odds boosts: These are offers that make the odds more favorable to the bettor, and are often avaialable for either a first-time depositor or an existing bettor. Sometimes the odds boosts amount to slight changes that are attractive for betting. Sometimes sportsbooks will use these to give out free money, like offering a point spread of 100 points that a team must cover, a guaranteed win for the bettor.
Virginia sports betting law and regulations
Virginia law allowed for at least four sportsbook apps but no more than a dozen at first. State legislators also approved up to five new casinos in the same bill.
Those casinos would be in addition to the 12 potential Virginia sports betting licenses.
An interesting part of the VA sports betting law allows for wagering at a major-league stadium yet to be built in the state. Daniel Snyder, owner of Washington D.C.’s NFL team, lobbied Virginia and Maryland lawmakers in 2020 to include in-stadium sports betting in the law, with the lure of the team eventually building a new stadium in one of the states.
The law covers any major-league team in the following sports:
It is illegal to bet on Virginia’s NCAA college teams under the new law. This does not apply to tournaments involving Virginia teams in which other college basketball teams are participating.
Virginia sports betting revenue and tax rate
Virginia sportsbooks pay a 15% tax rate on all sports betting revenue in the state, though the actual rate comes in lower than that.
That’s because sportsbooks can deduct promotional expenses tied to customer acquisition. That’s led to an effective tax rate of just 2.2% with $340,304 paid in taxes on $15.8 million in revenue through February.
More Virginia revenue details can be found on LSR‘s sports betting revenue page.
Virginia sports betting history
How did sports betting come to Virginia? Here’s a look back at the timeline leading to the start:
2021: Virginia sports betting finally launches
Virginia’s sports betting industry officially kicked off in mid-January when FanDuel Sportsbook launched in partnership with the Washington Football Team.
Through March, there are nine mobile sportsbooks licensed in Virginia. When the year started, eight of those would have counted against the cap of 12 mobile sportsbook licenses. That’s down to just six licenses counting against the cap now, though, thanks to legislation that expanded the market.
HB 1847 from Del. Mark Sickles and SB 1254 from Sen. Jeremy McPike introduced legislation that clarified some issues in the enabling legislation passed in 2020. Most importantly the legislation – signed at the end of March by Gov. Ralph Northam – separates the casino licenses from the mobile-only licenses.
That means there could be 18 or more licensed mobile sportsbooks in the current market with room for more: up to 12 mobile licenses, five sportsbooks licensed through casinos, the FanDuel-Washington Football Team partnership and any other sports teams that might launch a sportsbook in the future.
2020: Getting across the finish line
Following a 2019 study that showed significant revenue potential for sports betting, legislators again took up the cause of legalizing in Virginia.
Mirroring bills in the state House and Senate made quick progress through the chambers. The houses, though, ultimately passed different versions of sports betting legislation and the matter went to a conference committee to sort out differences.
That conference committee took until the last possible moment in Virginia’s short legislative session to produce a compromise bill. That bill escaped the legislature in time to get to Northam.
Northam sent back the bill with changes including concessions to NASCAR and additional licensure feeds in the form of background checks. The House and Senate approved these changes during a one-day veto session in April 2020.
The Virginia sports betting bill featured online wagering, as well as the required use of official league data to settle in-play bets.
2019: Virginia comes close but stops short
Virginia made its first foray into attempting to legalize sports betting in the Commonwealth in the first year after it became legal following the fall of the federal sports betting ban. After the repeal of PASPA by the Supreme Court, Virginia legislators attempted to approve sports betting, as well as some other casino-related items.
That effort produced some momentum and industry insiders thought Virginia sports betting could be one of the first to pass in 2019. That progress stalled though and the legislature settled for a study bill that took a deeper look into whether to legalize VA sports betting.
Most popular sports to bet in Virginia
The four major professional sports along with college football account for the bulk of wagers at legal US sportsbooks. No professional sports teams play their home games in Virginia at the present time.
Here’s what betting on those four leagues could look like once sports betting in Virginia gets started:
NFL betting in Virginia
Wagering on the NFL is big business in the United States, and Virginia is no different. NFL betting, especially on the Super Bowl, drives revenue for most sportsbooks.
The Washington Football Team of the NFC East division play their home game in nearby Landover, MD. The Baltimore Ravens of the AFC South division also play nearby in Maryland.
The team’s practice facility and headquarters is located in Virginia, though, and Snyder eventually might build a new stadium in the state. Some areas of Virginia are not far from neighboring North Carolina, where the Charlotte Panthers of the NFC South division play.
MLB betting in Virginia
Betting on Major League Baseball sustains many sportsbooks throughout the summer months. Many days in summer, MLB games make up the overwhelming majority of available wagers in US sportsbooks.
The closest nearby teams to Virginia are the Washington Nationals of the National League East division and the Baltimore Orioles of the American League East division. Fans of both teams in Virginia should make them the most popular baseball betting options.
NBA betting in Virginia
There are no NBA teams that play in Virginia but that should not stop bettors from enjoying action on pro basketball throughout the season. In fact, NBA basketball is one of the more popular choices for live and in-play wagering because of the rapid nature of the game.
The Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA’s Eastern Conference both play in neighboring states to Virginia. NBA wagering on these teams should prove strong once Virginia sports betting launches.
NHL betting in Virginia
While no NHL teams play professional hockey in the state of Virginia, nearby teams will provide options for fans. Betting on hockey does not generate enormous handle nationally, but the sport is popular in this area of the country.
The Washington Capitals of the NHL’s Metropolitan Division and the Carolina Hurricanes of the Atlantic Division likely will garner the most local betting attention. The Capitals in particular enjoy a strong fan base after winning the Stanley Cup in 2018.
MLS betting in Virginia
Soccer betting enjoys more support for the international game including the English Premier League (EPL) and major championships like the UEFA Champions League.
DC United of Major League Soccer is the closest professional soccer team to the Virginia region.
Virginia sports betting FAQ
Is sports betting legal in Virginia?
Yes. Sports betting in Virginia became legal in April 2020 and you can place a legal sports bet in Virginia as of January 2021. This met the timeline state regulators had to launch legal sports betting, which was early in 2021.
The legal age for betting on sports in Virginia is 21 years old.
Who oversees sports betting in Virginia?
The Virginia Lottery is responsible for overseeing the new sports betting industry. Placing sports betting under lottery oversight is common throughout the US sports betting landscape.
The lottery took the lead in creating rules and regulations governing the legal sports betting industry for Virginia. It is responsible for reviewing applications from sportsbook operators.
Where can I bet on sports in Virginia?
You are able to bet on sports from anywhere within the state borders of Virginia.
Downloading sports betting apps for your smartphone makes it possible to sign up for a sports betting account and wager from your home or anywhere else.
Is mobile sports betting available in Virginia?
Yes. In fact, mobile sports betting in Virginia will be the only method available to participate.
You do not need to be a resident of Virginia to sign up for an online sports betting account. To place a wager, your smartphone will use geolocation technology to verify that you are located inside Virginia when placing your bet.
Who can apply for a Virginia sports betting license?
Any sportsbook operator can apply for a Virginia sports betting license. The Virginia sports betting bill required at least four licenses, although state regulators can increase that to as many as 12.
A license costs $250,000 on a three-year term. Applicants also must pay a fee for a background check for all key members of their operation, which could cost as much as $50,000 per person.