Legalized Virginia sports betting is ready to colonize.
Lawmakers enacted into law a pair of bills, HB 896 and SB 384, that take effect July 1, thus legalizing regulated wagering in Old Dominion.
This comes after both the state House and Senate approved the bill in early March and then had the proposal sent back by Gov. Ralph Northam in mid-April.
Though a timeline remains unknown for an official launch, the Virginia Lottery Board must complete regulations by Sept. 15.
Virginia joins Washington as the first two states to enact legislation in 2020.
Virginia bill just beats the buzzer
Just to get the bill in front of the governor is something of a miracle.
Legislators were up against the clock and appeared at odds when it came to Virginia sports betting. Days waned to hours, which waned to minutes. The Senate and House discussed two main sports betting bills. However, neither chamber could agree on which to put forward.
Hence an 11th-hour conference between the two groups.
The House discarded a bill proposal during the final day of the session. A day later, however, essentially in extra innings, the two sides came to an agreement and in the final vote pushed the bill forward to the governor’s desk.
Northam then threw something of a curveball, developing several recommendations to be included in the bill. Lawmakers approved of those suggestions with little (or even any) disagreement, which one bill’s sponsor described as “largely administrative.”
Once legislators approved of the amended version, it became law.
What Virginia sports betting will look like
While regulators will still need to create a regulatory framework for Virginia sports betting, we know of some details of the future industry.
First, it appears that lawmakers will prohibit wagering on Virginia college sports. Any game involving an institution from Virginia or staged in the state will be off-limits.
Additionally, operators will not accept wagers on college prop bets.
That said, there will potentially be no shortage of Virginia sports betting options.
The Virginia Lottery, which will regulate the industry, will determine how many licenses to award operators based on what would best benefit the state. However, the lottery could potentially award up to 12 online-only licenses to bookmakers.
The state’s five casinos would receive preferred consideration for an online sports betting license, as would any professional sports team that relocates its facilities to Virginia. That last bit could be the state’s attempt to lure the Washington Redskins.
A $250,000 check would provide a three-year license to an operator, which would have revenue taxed at a 15% clip.
Governor’s recommendations agreed upon by legislators
Among Northam’s suggestions in the bill was the inclusion of NASCAR facilities under the definition of a “major sports franchise.” As it stands, teams from pro leagues such as MLB, NBA and NFL can offer legalized retail and online sports betting if they are located in the state.
The result is the authorization of Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway to accept regulated bets.
Additionally, while wagering on in-state colleges is prohibited, Northam recommended that operators be allowed to take bets on tournaments involving those colleges.