Virginia Sports Betting Could Come in 2019, Delegate Says

Virginia Sports Betting Could Come in 2019, Delegate Says

Virginia has been one of the states most historically opposed to gambling of all kinds. The state has been slow to accept and process gambling-related legislation over the years and simply has no track record of ever prioritizing it highly.

However, one state delegate believes sports betting may be on the horizon for the Old Dominion state. Democrat Marcus Simon of Falls Church has begun work on a bill that he says would legalize sports betting in the state by 2019.

Racetrack Culture Key Simon Says

Simon told local media this week that he sees a lot of potential for sports betting to allow Virginia to cash in where past efforts to monetize gambling have failed in the state.

“I think there will be some appetite for this. I think there is certainly a revenue opportunity in Virginia. We already see a lot of our residents’ dollars go across the river to the MGM casino, and we lose out on a lot of opportunities to capture some of that revenue.”

The key to making sports betting possible in Virginia, according to Simon, is the state’s history with horse racing and existing facilities that can be easily expanded upon.

“I think you can probably find a way to combine sportsbooks with the existing horse racing and off-track betting that exists. And there is probably a way to facilitate online sports gaming as well.”

It may need to do so just to keep up with developments on the other side of the Potomac.

Keeping Up with the Neighbors

Until this week, there had really been no effort to outline a plan for Virginia sports wagering, but recent developments in the District of Columbia and Maryland have likely prompted Simon’s intentions.

West Virginia, another of Virginia’s neighbors, is one of the few states to have already fully legalized sports betting and competing with the Mountaineer State is certainly a goal that Virginia, Maryland and D.C. have been goaded into.

Jack Evans, a D.C. Democrat Councilmember, also expressed his excitement and eagerness to pass a bill he introduced in September and move forward with providing sports betting at some of the area’s major sports venues.

“Knock on wood, everything goes according to plan, it could be by [Major League Baseball] Opening Day. Nats Park, Capital One Arena, Audi stadium, Wizards practice facility, places like that. And then I could see different variables. Hotels have already expressed enormous interest.”

Evans, like many proponents of legal sports betting at the state level, cited the extensive illegal American betting market or “$150 billion of underground gambling on sports in America," as he put it. He sees his bill as a means of getting citizens to “bet with the District of Columbia instead of betting with my bookie.”

Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan is also in favor of allowing the issue to be discussed during the state’s next session, according to spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill.

“Legalizing sports betting in Maryland will require action by the General Assembly and ultimately a referendum on the ballot. The governor has previously expressed support for the rights of states to make this determination and we anticipate this issue will be debated in the next legislative session.”

While Maryland remains behind the competition in some respects with regard to sports betting, the state's House of Representatives did easily pass legislation pertaining to it earlier this year.

With Gov. Ralph Northam open-minded toward the issue there is an unprecedented possibility of expanding into a state that had few expectations to allow it.

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