Sports Betting And A 5-City Casino Referendum Now Law In Virginia

Posted on May 4, 2020 - Last Updated on May 8, 2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed three bills, which are of particular interest to gamblers in his state, into law last week. The extent of Virginia gambling expansion is now up to voters in five jurisdictions.

Voters in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond will decide at the ballot box in November. If they approve the ballot measures, the landscape of legal gambling in VA could soon change drastically.

What’s already a done deal in terms of Virginia gambling expansion

Northam has signed three bills, two of which are set to take effect on July 1. HB 896 and SB 384 legalize sports betting in the state and authorize the VA Lottery to regulate the activity.

There’s no official timeline for when legal sportsbooks could launch in VA right now. The legislation imposes a deadline upon the VA Lottery, however, to have regulations in place by Sept. 15, at the latest.

The new laws allow for up to 12 online-only licenses. It also allows sporting venues like the state’s two motorsports tracks to offer retail wagering.

The other brick-and-mortar component to VA sports betting is pending voter approval right now. HB 4, which Northam gave his signature to as well, is an amendment proposal to the state’s Constitution.

Voters in those five cities can choose whether to allow land-based casinos in their backyards. It’s a city-by-city vote, so all, none or some of the five cities could approve the measure.

For as many of those that approve HB 4 by a simple majority, the casinos that they make space for would get priority for sports betting licenses. That means VA could have as many as seven retail sportsbooks in the near term, with the potential for more.

VA brick-and-mortar casino referendum could impact TN, MD

One of the primary motivations for pushing legal gambling expansion in VA has to do with the Washington Redskins. The NFL franchise plays its home games in Landover, MD.

The club is publicly seeking a new stadium and wants to land in a jurisdiction where it can legally offer sports betting. Washington, DC, itself is an option in that regard, but a site for a potential facility is a challenge.

Maryland has moved toward legalizing sports betting but has yet to accomplish that task. VA can now boast an amenity that MD can’t. Whether that gives Virginia an edge in the competition for the NFL team is uncertain.

Additionally, the strength of the support in each of the potential five casino homes for such facilities is unknown right now as well. What, if any, parties will work to influence voters and how much they’ll spend toward those ends is unclear.

Because of these unknowns, it’s hard to judge how much of an effect these changes will have on Tennessee. At the very least, it should curtail the number of Virginians who cross the border to place bets on sporting events in TN.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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