Virginia Sets Timetable For Rolling Out Sports Betting

Virginia Sets Timetable For Rolling Out Sports Betting
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Sports bettors in Virginia who had hoped to place bets on football in the fall will have to wait.

The Virginia State Lottery posted key dates and frequently asked questions Monday on the rollout of sports betting and it’s clear that the first sports bet in Virginia might not happen until 2021.

In the “FAQs On Virginia Sports Betting” section on the state lottery website, one of the questions was “When will I be able to place a legal sports bet?” The answer: “Legal sports betting in Virginia will not be available before mid-to-late December 2020, at the earliest.”

RELATED: More On Virginia Sports Betting And Gaming

The start of college football and the NFL is in doubt because of the coronavirus pandemic. College football is scheduled to begin in late August, the NFL in September.

A closer look at the key dates and FAQs from the Virginia Lottery, which will oversee sports betting in the state, gives an indication why sports betting won’t be operational before football begins:

  • July 1: Legislation passed during the 2020 session becomes effective.
  • Mid-July: Lottery Board meeting. Date TBD.
  • Mid-July through mid-August: Public comment period for sports betting regulations.
  • Sept. 15: Deadline for the Lottery Board to promulgate regulations implementing the provisions of HB896/SB384.
  • Late September: Lottery begins accepting applications for sports betting permits. The Lottery shall make a determination regarding whether to issue the sports betting permit within 90 days of receipt of a completed application.

How Did Virginia Get to This Point?

On April 22, Virginia lawmakers approved changes to sports betting and casino bills asked for by Gov. Ralph Northam, creating a broad sports betting market in the state. By approving the amendments, Virginia, which didn’t permit gambling beyond horse racing, ensures that it will have online and mobile sports betting, plus casinos in five cities.

Virginia became the second state to legalize sports betting this year after Washington. But Washington only allows for sports wagering at tribal casinos.

Northam could have signed the legislation after it was originally sent to him by the General Assembly, but on April 12 he sent the sports betting bill back for “technical” amendments. He had earlier sent the casino bill back. In the sports betting legislation, he wanted the NASCAR tracks in Bristol and Richmond to be included and for principals of sportsbook companies to pay $50,000 for background checks. In the casino bill, he wanted some revenue from casino gambling earmarked for school construction.

The towns of Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond need to hold referendums in November to approve casinos. Sports betting will take longer at those facilities because of the vote.

Virginia Sports Betting Law

Highlights of the law that will take effect on July 1:

  • Allows for four to 12 online licenses and five more for the casinos.
  • No in-person registration required to set up a sports betting account. All bets are placed through the internet.

  • It taxes sports betting revenue at 15%.
  • Sets licensing fees for operators at $250,000 for an initial three-year permit and $200,000 for three-year renewals.
  • Makes betting on college sports outside of the Virginia schools legal. But it does not allow for betting on games involving Virginia colleges and does not allow prop bets on college sports.
  • Gives a sports franchise based in the state — and currently the Washington Redskins have their headquarters in Ashburn but are looking to build a new stadium in either Virginia, Maryland or D.C. — the right to open a physical sportsbook. It would not count against the total licenses allowed for other operators in the state. The team could offer in-stadium and online sports betting through a gaming partner.
  • Creates the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund.

Colorado took its first sports bet on Friday, and Illinois, Michigan and Montana took their first bets in March before sports were shut down. Virginia has a chance to get a lot of work done on regulations and license approval before sports return in full force.

Del. Mark Sickles, a Democrat who represents the 43rd District and sponsor of the House bill, was realistic in late April about a timetable for sports betting.

“It would be great to have before college football and the NFL seasons, but I think we’ll be lucky to have it by the Super Bowl, much less the NFL season,” Sickles said. “We’ll get it going as soon as possible, but we want to get it right.”

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