A bill seeking to repeal Virginia’s current online lottery and sports betting prohibitions was pre-filed with the Virginia General Assembly. It was filed by Delegate Mark Sickles on Nov. 20.
As pre-filed legislation, the bill will officially be introduced Jan. 9.
The bill, HB 1638, would:
- Legalize sports betting (retail and online) in Virginia.
- Regulate sports betting through the Virginia Lottery.
- Remove the current prohibition on online lottery sales (the state currently offers online subscription services for draw games).
- Create the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund, the Sports Betting Operations Fund and the Major Research Project Subfund.
- Clarifies that daily fantasy sports do not constitute illegal gambling or fall under the definition of sports betting.
What the bill says about online lottery sales
If adopted, the bill would authorize the Virginia Lottery to expand its current online offerings. The expansion would be from subscription services to a comprehensive suite of online lottery products.
Just how comprehensive is left up to the Virginia Lottery.
Among the duties assigned to the VA Lottery are:
- The method to be used in selling tickets or shares, including the sale of tickets or shares over the internet.
- The type or types of lottery or game to be conducted.
What the bill says about sports betting
The bill authorizes the Virginia Lottery to award up to five, three-year licenses to qualified entities. Since Virginia is a non-casino state, these entities will likely be out-of-state sportsbook operators.
Most noteworthy is a bizarre twist: it’s not clear if retail sports betting will be offered in Virginia. The bill only expressly authorizes online sports betting.
The bill defines a sports betting platform as follows:
“Sports betting platform” means a website, app, or other platform accessible via the internet or mobile, wireless, or similar communications technology that sports bettors use to place sports bets.
It later stipulates:
The Board may establish a program, to be directed by the Director, under which the Department operates a sports betting platform.
Even more, there’s no mention of retail locations. Nor does the bill authorize the state’s bingo parlors or OTB facility to apply for a license.
Also of note:
- The sports betting licenses come at the cost of $250,000, with a $200,000 renewal fee due every three years.
- The bill imposes a 15 percent tax on gross gaming revenue on sports betting operators.
- Customers must be at least 21 years old to place a sports wager.
- Customers must be located in Virginia to place bets online.
- Bets on Virginia college sports and youth sports are prohibited.
Where will revenues go?
Rather than a cash grab by the state, the Virginia bill would legalize sports betting strictly as a consumer protection measure.
The tax revenues generated from sports betting operations are designated for operations, problem gambling treatment and research funding.
Above all, revenue from sports betting will be divided between the three newly created funds mentioned above as follows:
- Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund: 2.5 percent
- Sports Betting Operations Fund: 2.5 percent
- Major Research Project Subfund: 95 percent