VA Sports Betting Bill Just Needs Gov. Ralph Northam’s Signature To Become Law

Posted on April 23, 2020

On the heels of the Tennessee Lottery Board approving sports betting regulations, one neighboring state likely won’t fall far behind. The Virginia Assembly has taken its final action to enact a sports betting bill.

On Wednesday, both the VA House of Delegates and the Senate approved recommendations Gov. Ralph Northam made to the bill. The bill now goes back to Northam, needing only his signature to become law.

Given the fact it was Northam himself who made the recommendations, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he will give the bill his signature. The law will make VA the second state to legalize sports betting this year and put TN on notice.

What’s in the Virginia sports betting bill?

HB4 will legalize sports betting and expand legal gambling in Old Dominion in other ways. The bill provides for both online and retail sportsbooks.

Although there is a strong brick-and-mortar component, online sportsbooks can receive licensure without any ties to a casino in VA. In that way, the framework will somewhat resemble that of TN.

The state’s retail component could be led by the two motorsports tracks located in VA. Virginia cities could also try to woo the Washington Redskins out of Maryland with the ability to host a sportsbook.

One of the other big changes is still pending, however. The state’s voters will have their say in November on local referendums that could allow for as many as five commercial casinos.

The five cities that could become hosts to future casinos are Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and the state capital of Richmond. Bristol is located on the TN border, so it could become a new out-of-state gaming option for Tennessee residents.

That may not be the only way that TN faces competition from across the VA border, however. Virginia’s online sportsbooks could launch this year, and they might have a leg up on the Tennessee version.

Why VA online sportsbooks could be a legitimate threat to TN operators

Prior to VA’s action, hopeful sportsbook operators in the Volunteer State might have dreamt of pulling action from across the VA border. Now they might have to worry about the opposite instead.

While the VA Lottery has yet to draft its regulations, it’s unlikely that it will repeat the mistake of instituting a 10% hold mandate that TN regulators made. That could give VA’s online sportsbooks a distinct advantage.

For example, TN sportsbooks will likely push parlays to ensure compliance with Tennessee regulations. Another possibility is that the odds of straight bets at TN sports betting apps will be inferior in comparison to those at their VA counterparts.

If that becomes a trend, TN residents could opt to cross the border and place their bets in VA. They may not have to wait long to be able to do that either.

Although there is no official timeline for when Virginia sportsbook apps could go live, it may not happen much later than the same occurs in TN. Like in Tennessee, future operators in Virginia will want to be up and running prior to the start of the next college football and NFL seasons.

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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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