More Sportsbooks Headed to Virginia With New Legislation
Legislation in Virginia’s House and Senate that allows for more sportsbook operator licenses and betting on the Olympics will be heading to Gov. Ralph Northam.
The legislation, if signed by Northam, would go into effect in Virginia on July 1.
The two bodies had to conference late last week over language in the House bill that was added to promote more minority participate in the licensing process. House and Senate leaders just need to sign the legislation and send it to the governor.
The new legislation separates mobile sportsbooks’ operator licenses from casino licenses — which fall into the same category by Virginia Lottery Board interpretation currently.
Twelve operator licenses were approved in the legislation that went into effect last July.
“It was supposed to be a technical bill — things we thought originally in passage were interpreted differently by the Virginia Lottery,” said Del. Mark Sickles, who sponsored the House bill and its predecessor that paved the way for mobile sports betting.
The state has approved five casinos. Four operators are getting ready to submit applications for their planned ventures in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth.
The fifth, in Richmond, will be decided by residents by referendum in November. The city received at least six proposals from operators in February and will choose one in June.
So far, five sportsbooks operators have been approved to operate in Virginia.
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Twenty-five applications were filed by sportsbooks operators in October for the 12 sports betting licenses, according to Virginia Lottery Board deputy director Gina Smith.
“The net effect is to have 19 (licenses) instead of 12,” Sickles said.
Sportsbooks are “not the most lucrative — as opposed to casinos — but it is a new source of revenue,” Sickles said. The first revenue report on mobile sports betting in Virginia has not been released.
Sickles said Lottery Board executive director Kevin Hall told him March’s report was expected to be more telling in terms of actual revenue, as right now operators can offset costs for marketing.
The new bill also would allow for betting on Olympic sports, now currently classified under youth sports in the legislation and illegal to wager on.
HB 1847, sponsored by Sickles, and SB 1254, sponsored by Sen. Jeremy McPike, had a discrepancy in additional language to the proposed bill.
An amendment was added to the House bill:
“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, and (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. As used in this subdivision, "historically black colleges and universities," "minority individual," and "minority-owned business" mean the same as those terms are defined in § 2.2-1604.”
The Senate bill did not include the amendment, prompting the conference.
Sickles said earlier in February that it is likely the bill will be passed, though he might have to introduce an emergency rider to make betting on Olympic sports go into effect before the Summer Games in Tokyo.
The General Assembly went into extended session and was set to wrap up Monday.
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