Virginia Steams Toward Sports Betting By Year’s End

Virginia Steams Toward Sports Betting By Year’s End
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Virginia lawmakers on Wednesday approved changes to sports betting and casino bills asked for by Gov. Ralph Northam, creating a broad sports betting market in the state. Virginia, which didn’t permit gambling beyond horse racing, will soon have online and mobile sports betting, plus casinos in five cities.

With Northam’s signature — expected in the next two weeks if not by the end of this week — Virginia becomes the second state to legalize sports betting this year after Washington. But Washington only allows for sports wagering at tribal casinos.

RELATED: More On Virginia Sports Betting And Gaming

The casino bill approved Wednesday authorizes casinos in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond. But it will take longer for sports betting at the casinos to begin because each town has to hold a referendum in November to approve the casinos. The biggest change Northam wanted to the casino bill was earmarking some gambling tax revenue to school construction.

The Virginia Lottery, which oversees sports betting, will now need to set up guidelines for the regulatory process and for approving sportsbooks. All of the major sportsbooks are expected to enter the market.

Among the amendments the governor wanted on the sports betting bill included adding the state’s two NASCAR tracks — Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway — as venues for sports betting. Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), a sponsor of the House bill who had predicted the amendments would pass, said the two NASCAR tracks could have a joint marketing relationship with a licensee and provide sports betting via mobile apps.

One other amendment Northam wanted was one that could upset potential operators — a $50,000 background check fee for principals of sportsbooks seeking to do business in Virginia. Sickles said the lottery would work with the sportsbooks on the fees during an open regulatory process. Once a company applies, the lottery has 90 days to review license applications under one of the amendments.

Check Out: Latest updates and legal Virginia Sports Betting Sites.

Key Provisions of The Virginia Sports Betting Law

Besides adding the NASCAR tracks and setting the fee for background checks, the law also:

  • 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.
  • Allows for up to 12 online licenses and five more for the casinos.
  • 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.

The goal when the legislation was approved by the legislature was to have sports betting operational by football season. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, football season could have a later start, giving the lottery a better chance to have regulations in place and operators approved.

Virginia took another historic step on Wednesday.