A few bills introduced at the beginning of Virginia’s 2022 legislative session caught the eye of those in the sports betting industry. From wagering on Virginia colleges to marketing language, state legislators have introduced bills capable of shaking up the commonwealth’s sports betting landscape.
Among those was HB 1103, which proposed that sports betting operators shouldn’t be allowed to exclude bonuses and promotions from taxable revenue after the first year of operating in Virginia. Likely to irk national operators who enjoy gaining market share with promotions, HB 1103 was moved to the committee on general laws on Jan. 12, but no action has been taken in the month since.
Bills in Virginia can carry over from the 2022 legislative session into 2023 if nothing happens by March 12, the end of the 2022 session. Other sports betting bills have seen more action in recent weeks.
Virginia is (not) for bettors
Sen. Thomas Norment introduced SB 96, which originally aimed to prevent sports betting companies from using “Virginia” in their advertising language. That idea drew pushback from national operators, so Norment tweaked the wording of the bill.
Now, Norment is trying to prevent sports betting companies from using the phrase “Virginia is for bettors,” and he seems to have support. SB 96, with language altered in that manner, passed through the Senate last week.
Virginia is for Bettors pic.twitter.com/fOrHuhv51Y
— Coach Duggs (@CoachDuggs) August 10, 2021
“We’ve spent a lifetime trying to market ‘Virginia is for Lovers,’” Norment said during a recent meeting. “I just felt it was trespassing on it.”
Norment’s trademark concern seems valid, as the Virginia Tourism Corporation has a registered federal trademark for “Virginia is for Lovers” and a couple of offshoots of the slogan. To become law, the bill needs to make it through the Virginia House of Delegates and be approved by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Any company to use “Virginia is for bettors” in official advertising could be fined up to $50,000, according to the language in the bill.
Betting on Virginia college teams?
A house bill aimed at allowing Virginia bettors to wager on Virginia colleges and universities, HB 1127, failed to make it out of the House. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 576, is making its way through the Senate with relative ease. BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel were among the national operators to support HB 1127.
Virginia bettors are currently unable to legally bet on the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and other schools in the state. Several legislators argue that people use offshore sports betting sites to wager on these teams, and making it legal would better regulate wagering on those programs. Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball team defeated Virginia on national TV Monday night, and it’s likely people in the commonwealth wagered on the game illegally.
Sickos alert: Only one men’s college basketball game has a total under 120 points tonight. It’s UVA at Virginia Tech (118.5 at most books). Hokies favored by 4.5 points in the rivalry matchup.
The last time these teams met UVA won 54-52. Two slowest tempo teams in the ACC.
— Bennett Conlin (@BennettConlin) February 14, 2022
While SB 576 is still alive, it may be unlikely to make it through the House after HB 1127 failed to do so. It would take a change of heart from legislators previously opposed to allowing sports betting on Virginia colleges, a position that is costing operators and the state some additional revenue.
One member of Virginia’s House of Delegates, Barry Knight, gave little reasoning for being against HB 1127 earlier this month, saying he just didn’t want to change what Virginia originally put into law.
“I’m just gonna stick with what I agreed to two years ago,” Knight said during a discussion of HB 1127.
Richmond casino referendum update
Contentious debates throughout Virginia about whether Richmond should have a casino are likely to continue in the coming months. A referendum held last November narrowly shut down an attempt for a casino to be built in the state capital. Some stakeholders are trying again in 2022, hoping a push for another referendum can ultimately swing the votes in the favor of casino supporters.
With Richmond voters knocking down the idea in 2021, Petersburg aimed to jump into the mix to hold its own referendum when Sen. Joe Morrissey introduced SB 203. The bill, which would allow Petersburg to hold a referendum, also aimed to prevent Richmond from holding another referendum in the next few years. The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, however, voted 9-7 last week against Morrissey’s bill.
Hearing from the @RTDNEWS state politics desk that Sen. Joe Morrissey’s Petersburg casino bill has been defeated by Senate finance committee. That potentially clears way for Richmond to hold another casino referendum this fall
— Chris Suarez (@Suarez_CM) February 11, 2022
“I was thunderstruck as to what occurred,” Morrissey told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The vote keeps Richmond in the running for another casino referendum later this year, although it’s unclear if the referendum would gather the votes needed after failing so recently.