Put out the welcome mat, Virginia: Legalized sports betting is on its way.
After many years of debate among lawmakers, the Virginia Legislature finally passed a bill to legalize sports betting in the state.
In early March 2020, the state Assembly and Senate each approved HB 4, a comprehensive gambling bill that will bring casinos and sportsbooks to the Commonwealth.
All the bill needed was a signature from Gov. Ralph Northam. Instead, though, the governor made several recommendations, including redefining “major sports franchise” to include several racetracks in Virginia as well as allowing for operators to take bets on in-state colleges participating in tournaments despite a prohibition on such wagering otherwise.
Legislators ultimately agreed with and approve of Northam’s suggestions, thus passing legislation that becomes law July 1, 2020. The Virginia Lottery has until Sept. 15 to develop rules and regulations.
The bill would allow five casinos to open in the state, and each could obtain a license to launch a retail sportsbook. The law also provides for as many as 12 more online-only sportsbooks to open in Virginia. The state’s population of about 8.5 million rivals that of New Jersey.
Read on for a comprehensive overview of what to expect once legal sports betting comes to Virginia.
Potential Virginia sportsbooks operators
When it comes to determining which sportsbooks will be opening in Virginia, it depends on which operators open casinos, and their partnerships.
Multiple operators have reportedly shown interest and made proposals in the cities where casinos will be built.
But with online-only sportsbooks also permitted in the state, it is reasonable to expect that should open the door to popular operators in other states, DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, William Hill and others.
When sports betting will begin in Virginia
The Virginia Lottery will oversee sports betting in the state. Its first order of business is creating regulations for land-based casinos and online operations, including those covering sports betting.
As we’ve seen in other states, formulating these ordinances often can take time, although some foresee at least the online sportsbooks possibly being up and running by late 2020.
Meanwhile, the casinos and their retail sportsbooks likely will not be opening until 2023 at the earliest.
Sports betting apps in Virginia
Online sports betting will likely work much as it does in other states, with approved online sportsbooks accessible via either web-based platforms or betting apps designed for iOS (Apple) or Android mobile devices.
The sports betting law dictates those who place sports bets online must be at least 21 years old and physically located in the state when making their wagers.
Download the app you would like to play and then begin the registration process. Remember to check if there are exclusive offers for new or existing players that you can take advantage of. Check back to this page for the latest offers once betting goes live in Virginia.
Examples of personal information that VA bettors will likely need to provide include:
- physical address
- phone number
- email address
When it comes to traditional pregame bets on contest outcomes, the sportsbooks will be able to use any data source to confirm results. However, with in-game betting (also called live betting), the law requires operators to use official league data in order to settle bets.
VA sportsbooks deposits and withdrawal options
Banking options at VA sportsbooks will include various methods of depositing and withdrawing funds.
Options listed in the law include:
- Credit cards
- Debit cards
- Wire transfers
Additional banking methods can be approved, as well.
Bet types at Virginia sportsbooks
As noted, regulations regarding sports betting still need to be written and finalized. However, the new law does define “sports betting” in a way that includes certain kinds of bets and excludes others.
The betting types that VA sportsbooks will allow are:
- Exchange wagering
- Live betting
- Over/Unders (totals)
- Prop bets
- Straight bets
However, sportsbook operators are explicitly prohibited from accepting wagers on:
- Youth sports
- Proposition bets on college sports
- Bets on Virginia college sports
Betting on Virginia sports teams
As highlighted above, one significant provision in the new sports betting law is a ban on betting on Virginia college sports.
That means betting isn’t allowed on such teams, including:
- Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) Rams
- Old Dominion Monarchs
- William & Mary Tribe
- James Madison Dukes
- Virginia Tech Hokies
- Virginia Cavaliers, the 2018-19 NCAA men’s basketball champions
The bill does allow betting on collegiate sports involving teams not located in Virginia, as well as on all professional sports.
Alas, Virginia is currently the most populous state in the country without a major league sports franchise. So, bettors in Virginia wishing to wager on “local” pro teams will have to bet on those located in nearby District of Columbia or Maryland, Tennessee and North Carolina.
History of VA sports betting legislation
For many years it appeared Virginia would never have sports betting. Casinos were not allowed in the state, nor was greyhound racing.
Betting on horse racing was also prohibited for most of the 20th century until a referendum was approved in 1988. However, the state’s only harness racetrack had its application denied a few years ago, and the site is reportedly being converted into a golf course.
The state lottery was introduced the same year as was horse racing. Along with betting at the state’s five off-track betting (OTB) parlors and some charitable gaming, it comprised all the options available to gamblers in the state.
Until recently, that is.
Following the May 2018 ruling by the US Supreme Court lifting the federal prohibition against states other than Nevada offering sports betting, lawmakers in Virginia began considering the possibility of bringing sports betting to the VA.
In November 2018, a wide-ranging sports betting bill called the Virginia Lottery Law was introduced. While passed the Senate, it failed to make it through the Assembly.
Lawmakers chose instead to study the issue for a year, as well as the possibility of introducing casinos. After learning how much revenue could be produced, there was new momentum for US gambling legislation.
Two different sports betting bills — one in the Senate and one in the Assembly — were proposed in late 2019 and discussed into the first months of 2020, but neither chamber was willing to let the other’s bill go forward.
Finally, the two groups got together and, after reaching a compromise, were able to hammer out HB 4. The wide-ranging bill would legalize five casinos, all of which would be able to open retail sportsbooks and apply for online gambling licenses as well.
What the bill allows
The bill additionally allowed a minimum of four and a maximum of 12 online-only licenses besides the ones the casinos can have. One professional sports franchise could also apply for an online license (as long as the franchise headquartered its online sportsbook operation in Virginia).
That brought the potential total number of online operators to 18 in the state, each of which would be able to offer sports betting.
Just as the legislative session was about to end, the Senate voted 33-5 in favor of the new bill, then the House voted 60-35 in support as well, sending the bill to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk to sign.
Virginia sports betting FAQ
Is sports betting legal in Virginia?
In March 2020, VA lawmakers passed a bill to legalize sports betting in Virginia. All that is needed is Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature, and sports betting will be legal.
Who regulates VA sports betting?
The Virginia Lottery will be responsible for regulating both retail and online sports betting in the state. The law requires the VA Lottery to develop and maintain a “consumer protection bill of rights” to help ensure fairness and bettors’ security.
Where can VA bettors wagers on sports in the state?
The new legislation permits up to five casinos in the state, each of which can potentially have a retail sportsbook where bettors may place sports wagers in person. Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond are likely locations for casinos.
The law also allows up to 18 online sportsbooks where those located in the state will be able to bet on sports online.
Will online sports betting in VA be legal?
Yes, the five casinos will all be able to offer online sports betting, as will up to 12 online-only operators and one sports franchise.
Will Virginia offer retail and online sports betting?
Yes. We expect online sportsbooks to be available much sooner than land-based sports betting.
When can bettors in VA start placing wagers?
When the bill passed in March 2020, most observers predicted that regulations for the online-only operators would be pulled together sooner than brick-and-mortar casinos, perhaps even in time for the 2020 NFL season.
Who can apply for a Virginia sports betting license?
The five casinos, between four and 12 online-only operators, and one sports franchise can all potentially apply for licenses to provide sports betting.
Such an application requires applying for a three-year permit and paying a $250,000 application fee. After that, permit holders will be able to renew every three years for a $200,000 renewal fee. Operators’ revenue will be taxed at 15%.
How can bettors in VA bet on sports?
Once the sportsbooks finally launch, bettors will be able to place wagers at retail sportsbooks or create an account at a web-based sportsbook for online betting.
Players must be at least 21 years old and physically located within the state to bet on sports in Virginia.