Caesars/William Hill Sportsbook went live Wednesday in Virginia, the company announced Wednesday afternoon. The platform is the fifth to launch in Virginia since FanDuel first went live on Jan. 21. William Hill is already live online or via app in Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New Jersey, and West Virginia.
Caesars/William Hill is partnered with the city of Danville, one of five Virginia jurisdictions with plans to build a retail casino. Voters in four cities and towns have approved casinos, and Richmond voters will have a chance to approve a casino in November 2022.
William Hill will be the second platform tethered to a casino to go live behind BetRivers (Portsmouth), which did so on Jan. 27.
“Just in time for Sunday’s game, our Virginia app will give football fans over 1,000 ways to to bet this incredible matchup, from the opening coin toss to to whether the game will be decided in overtime,” said President of Digital for William Hill US Kenneth Fuchs via press release.
Five operator licenses issued to date
The Virginia Lottery so far has issued five sports wagering operator licenses. It has approximately eight more it can issue under the current law, which allows for a maximum of 12 licenses in addition to licenses issued to pro franchises, which don’t count against the cap. FanDuel has partnered with the Washington Football Team.
@VSiNLive @MitchMossRadio @paulyhoward
Talk about #WinSome – after 25 years of living in Virginia with no legal sports betting, four of our 12 new operators came online this week. pic.twitter.com/JRchofaJod
— Phil (@PMTurcotte) January 27, 2021
Among the companies believed to have applied for licenses but yet to receive approval are Barstool Sports/Penn National, PointsBet, and WynnBET. WynnBet has partnered with two Virginia NASCAR tracks in hopes of getting market access.
Of the available licenses in Virginia, five are tethered to and earmarked for licensees that have partnered with one of five to-be-built casinos in the state. Hard Rock (Bristol) is the only remaining operator tethered to a casino that has not launched. The city of Norfolk has sold land to the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, which has not yet announced a partner, and the city of Richmond has yet to select a partner and residents will vote on approving a casino in 2022.
When Virginia lawmakers legalized sports betting on April 22, 2020, the Virginia Lottery was tasked with an aggressive timeline to develop sports betting guidelines, and ultimately to launch operators. It was also tasked with developing regulations for casinos.
The law requires that casino regulations be issued by April 2021, and Bob Fontaine, deputy general counsel, presented a overview of emergency casino regulations. There will be a public-comment period after proposed permanent regulations are rolled out later this year. The plan is for the first casinos in the state to open as early as 2022.
Increase in number of licenses coming?
Besides all the activity happening at the Virginia Lottery, lawmakers are working on legislation to clean up some technicalities in the current law, as well as expand the number of licenses available. HB 1847, sponsored by Mark Sickles, who championed sports betting in the General Assembly last year, has been assigned to the Senate General Laws and Technology committee. The bill passed out of the House, 67-33, on Jan. 27.
SB 1254 passed the full Senate, 21-18, on Monday, and has not yet been assigned to a House committee.
Under the current law, professional sports teams do no count toward the 12-license sports betting operator cap, but casinos do. The bills working their way through the general assembly would make it so the casinos do not count toward the cap, potentially allowing for five additional sports betting licenses to be issued. According to the Virginia Lottery, 25 operators applied for the opportunity to provide sports betting.
The Virginia General Assembly has a short session — only 30 days — this year, and is set to adjourn on Feb. 11.