Virginia Takes Another Step Towards Sports Betting Legalization

It’s been almost two years since the Supreme Court of the United States made a decision to strike the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act or PASPA 1992 down. This happened in May 2018 and since then, 20 states have already legalized sports betting.

For a long time, PASPA has been the main reason why the majority of the states in the US can’t regulate local sports betting. It was New Jersey that challenged this law and this worked. Sports betting is no longer federally illegal and each state now has the power to legalize it locally.

The states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, and Iowa have already launched sports betting and states like Illinois, Tennessee, Colorado, and Michigan also have signed betting into law but are still working on launching it.

Now, another state made a move towards signing sports betting into law. Two bills that would legalize certain forms of sports betting in Virginia are now moving forward to the desk of Governor Ralph Northam. These bills will allow football, cricket, basketball betting and many others once signed by the governor.

The state’s House of Representatives and the Senate have finally voted in favor of these. The House Bill 896 primarily concerns online and mobile sports betting. This got a vote of 59-35 from the House and 33-5 from the Senate. When it comes to in-person betting, the House Bill 4 got a vote of 60-35 from the House.

For online betting, the lottery can issue at least 4 and up to 12 online-only licenses. It is the lottery that will decide whether how many of these licenses should be issued. The decision should be based on what is economically best for the state.

Both bills passed by the House and the Senate represent a major gambling expansion in the state. This is quite an achievement for the supporters because the state has dealt with resistance in the legislature for decades. There was always a concern about the impact of gambling and betting on students.

After a last-minute argument in the senate, however, it was decided that colleges and universities in the state will be excluded from betting. This means that any college sports competitions will not be allowed to wager on. This comes in response to senior education professionals who want to make sure that the students are safe from the risks of gambling. Prop bets on any college sports will also not be allowed.

Based on the House Bill 4, there can be five licensed USA casinos that will be allowed to offer sports betting. Any of the five of these casinos can be allowed to get an online license as long as it has an investment of 250 million US dollars or more.

Part of this bill is also a clause concerning leagues like the NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS, or the NHL. If any of these decide to relocate to Virginia, they will get preferential treatment when it comes to online sports betting licenses. The operators will be required to pay for a three-year license that would cost 250,000 US dollars. The cost of renewal is 200,000 US dollars. Overall, the market in the state could have as many as 18 online licenses.

The revenues from sports betting will be taxed at 15 percent. Both bills also include the use of official league data to settle in-play betting. The operators can use any data source to settle end-of-game bets.

If both of the bills receive Governor Northam’s signature, both in-person and online betting will be allowed in the state. It’s still unknown when betting will be launch after the governor sign the bills. It is likely that sports betting will be legal in Virginia before the year ends but its launch may have to wait as far as the end of next year. The licenses can be issued 60 days only after the regulations are ready.

Local casinos, however, may take longer in offering sports betting because in the cities of Bristol. Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Richmond, voter referendums are required. The voter referendums can happen as early as November, depending on when the governor signs the bills.

These five cities are where the General Assembly chose to have casino sites. These bills are pitched as an economic lifeline for these five cities.

Delegate Barry Knight from R-Virginia Beach appears to be looking forward to its passing. He said, “It’s going to create jobs. It so these people can lift themselves up.”