Virginia Guide To Legal Gambling

The Ins And Outs Of Virginia's Lottery And Racing Industries

Virginia is one of those unfortunate states with no casino gambling to offer its citizens.
Virginia

Even horse racing is no longer available in Virginia. Its lone harness racetrack, Colonial Downs, was denied any race dates by the state. The property is now reportedly being converted into a golf course.

No options exist for Virginians to bet on games of chance, with two exceptions. Virginia does have five off-track betting parlors scattered throughout the state. Furthermore, the state just approved an application for a sixth parlor – a second location in Richmond.

The other exception is, naturally, the state lottery. It offers both single-state and multi-state drawings, like Mega Millions and Powerball. It does seem a strange proposition that so many anti-gambling states still engage in the lottery. It’s one of the least favorable gambling options for gamblers in terms of house advantage and risk. But much like Texas and other states hostile to gambling, the lottery is thriving in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

That’s it. No other gambling is legal in Virginia.

Latest Virginia legal gambling news

Virginia legal gambling background

Attempts to legalize riverboat casinos haven’t even made it to the floor of the Virginia State Senate. The truth of the matter is that Virginia, like many Southern states, is a deeply conservative and religious state. Its citizens (particularly those who vote) and representatives have not seen fit to dip the state into the casino industry.

Things are equally bleak for Native American properties. Virginia-based tribes have yet to make any significant moves toward building casinos on reservation lands.

The only federally-recognized tribe in the state, the Pamunkey Indians, have denied any plans for casino development. In fact, the tribe ousted its chief when he tried to negotiate a deal to bring gambling to the reservation. Six other tribes within the state are being considered for federal recognition, but nothing is set in stone yet.

Even if those tribes are recognized, they would still be forced to negotiate compacts with the state government in order to build and operate gambling facilities. According to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, tribes must enter into these agreements with the states and operate within the limitations on size and game choice.

In practice, what usually ends up happening is that state legislatures become more emboldened to expand gambling after it sees the increase in tax revenue flood in from the tribal casinos, however limited they may be. In a sense, tribal casinos are the gateway to expanding casinos in many states – but Virginia is not there yet.

For now, gamblers will be forced to cross state lines to play games of chance. Listed below are the five best options for Virginians, along with travel expectations for each site.

Land-based slots options

Property Location Number of Slots Distance from Richmond Distance from Virginia Beach
MGM National Harbor Oxon Hill, MD 3,300 105 miles 205 miles
Maryland Live! Casino Hanover, MD 4,000 135 miles 235 miles
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races Charles Town, WV 2,700 147 miles 258 miles
The Casino Club at the Greenbrier White Sulphur Springs, WV 320 197 miles 303 miles
Harrington Raceway and Casino Harrington, DE 1,700 197 miles 175 miles

Online gambling options

In turn, there are no online casinos in Virginia. That is unless you count the off-track betting terminals, which would be a stretch for qualifying as online gambling.

Virginians must be 21 to venture into any offshore gambling sites. Like many states, Virginia’s online gambling sphere remains largely undefined. There are no laws for or against it.

Social casino site options

Virginians can make use of the most common social casino sites.  Double Down Casino, Big Fish, and Slotomania all offer apps allowing free play through Facebook or their mobile devices. These apps offer players the action of a casino, if not the chance for monetary gain.

As far as social sites with real-life ties, the best option for Virginians would be to use the Hollywood Casino Charles Town’s Play4fun network site. It allows players to sample games such as slot machines on the floor of the casino without risking any money.

Nearly all of the Hollywood-branded casinos offer this utility to site visitors. It is presumably a way to stoke interest in making a trip from nearby locales. Since HCCT is located a manageable 147 miles from Richmond, players from Virginia (especially in the western part of the state) would be able to preview their favorite slots prior to making the journey to the northwest.

Finally, MGM’s MyVegas app continues to be one of the best options for garnering real-world comps for little to no investment. Although no MGM properties nearby (such as MGM National Harbor) are partners with the app, players can still rack up loyalty points. These earn free rooms, food, and other compliments via this online utility. This may seem unwieldy and unpalatable, but Virginians are going to be traveling to gamble, no matter where they live. They might as well have some perks available.

Operator profile

Colonial Downs

Colonial Downs was a racetrack located in New Kent County, Virginia. It offered thoroughbred and harness racing to patrons.

The track was located between Williamsburg and Richmond. Races were run from 1997 to 2014. The track was fairly successful during its initial period. However, it slowly began requesting less race approvals each year from the Virginia Racing Commission, which oversees any horse racing and betting in the state.

Things came to a head in 2014 when the track refused to run any more races, citing losses in the operation of the events. Since then, the facility has malingered. After the commission’s denial of races in 2016, track ownership has been rumored to be redeveloping the property as a golf course. The track’s website is no longer in service.

Colonial Downs was the only provider of live betting in Virginia. Money from Virginians will continue to flow into neighboring states until the legislature acts. Until then, there will only be off-track betting, house poker games, and ironically, golf course bets to keep residents of Old Dominion occupied.

State legal environment

  Permitted/Offered? Notes & Restrictions
Land-Based Gambling No Only gambling available in-state is OTB racing
Online Gambling No Must be 21 to play offshore
Lottery Yes
Charitable or House-Based Gambling Yes Social poker permitted as long as house takes no cut of pot
Minimum Gambling Age 18 for OTB, 21 for offshore online gambling