Virginia Sports Betting Already Making Progress In 2020

Posted on January 30, 2020 - Last Updated on March 20, 2020

The percentage of states that neighbor Tennessee with a legal framework for wagering on sports may increase drastically this year. On top of Georgia, Kentucky, and Missouri, Virginia sports betting is now on the horizon as well.

The framework of the legal wagering landscape may closely resemble Tennessee’s. That framework has broad support right now.

Details of the current Virginia sports betting proposal

Senator Jeremy McPike says that the votes are there to pass a sports betting bill this year. SB 384 advanced out of one Virginia Senate Committee into another this week.

The bill, in its current form, calls for a 15% tax on handle. It caps the number of licenses at 10 and imposes a minimum of six.

Like in Tennessee, the state lottery would be in charge of regulating the activity. Also, like in the Volunteer State, the sportsbooks would only operate online.

Unlike Tennessee, however, Virginia has casinos within its borders. That doesn’t seem to be an issue right now, but it’s early in the legislative process.

The three casinos in the state might fear they will lose customers to online sportsbooks. Additionally, they may want in on the action themselves.

They could do so by acquiring one of the online licenses, but they might prefer to push the state for clearance for retail sportsbooks instead. The current bill makes no provision for that.

If the votes exist as McPike states, however, the casinos may not have much choice. McPike is not only optimistic about the bill’s passage but the sportsbooks getting to market quickly as well.

McPike’s optimistic timeline for VA sportsbooks’ launch

McPike went on to say that he believes legal sportsbooks in Virginia could be up and running in time for the next college football and NFL seasons. That gives the state about seven months to pass a bill, enact rules, approve licenses, inspect operators for compliance and give a final authorization.

Sportsbook operators would have even less time to get to market, however. They can’t begin to tweak their products for Virginia’s regulatory structure until they know what that is.

Legalization rolling out in this time frame isn’t unheard of. Nearby Indiana did it in about three months. However, that should be considered more the exception rather than the rule. In Tennessee, for example, legal sportsbooks still haven’t launched eight months after legalization. There are not even finalized regulations yet.

That’s also the case in Illinois, where the state legalized sports betting about seven months ago. Right now there is no timeline for launch in the Land of Lincoln.

Like with all the other neighbor states considering legalization, this just increases the pressure to get Tennessee online sportsbooks launched. Every day of delay means lost potential revenue for the state.

That increases if Virginia sportsbooks get to market first. Additionally, the chance to pull in revenue from Virginians who cross the border to place legal bets in Tennessee diminishes once the same people can do so in their state of residence.

While that may be the hope of Virginians, it’s all in the realm of optimistic chance right now. If McPike is correct, however, Tennessee has another reason to move quickly.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. 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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