Virginia lawmakers easily passed legal sports betting measures in both chambers on Monday. The two bills have some minor differences but would legalize statewide mobile and retail sports betting and mandate the use of “official league data” in deciding in-play or live wagers.
- Senate version calls for a 15% tax rate on gross revenue and House version calls for 20%;
- Senate version allows for a minimum of six and maximum of 10 sports betting platforms, while the House sets those limits at four and 12;
- House version allows for the operation of “a sports betting facility only to a qualified applicant that is also a major league sports franchise,” while the Senate version limits that to pro sports venues on which “construction began on or after July 1, 2020”;
- House version includes the college carve out for Virginia college teams, prohibiting wagering on their contests, while the Senate version does not.
From here, each bill will be sent to the other chamber for approval. At that point, lawmakers will have to iron out the differences. The options would be for one chamber to accept the other’s bill or for a collective bill to be ironed out. In either case, both chambers will have to approve the final version before it can be sent to Governor Ralph Northam for his signature.
Redskins want to keep options open
Of interest in the bills is the difference of opinion about legalizing sports betting at professional venues. Lawmakers are clearly on board with the idea, though the state is not home to any professional sports teams.
The language in both bills is clearly a nod to the Washington Redskins, who are currently based in Landover, Maryland. The team built FedEx Field just 22 years ago but is in talks with Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., about where to locate its next stadium.
Here’s another angle on this – for all the talk of fan erosion – sure looks like the Redskins have Virginia and Maryland in a race to get sports betting so they can build a stadium. Cash grabs, in whatever fashion, never erode.
— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) February 10, 2020
Justin Ross testified on the Redskins’ behalf last week in Maryland, asking that FedEx Field be included among the venues where sports betting would be legal in that state. And in Washington, D.C., the RFK Stadium site was part of the discussion, and the new law there allows for sports wagering at pro sports venues. In fact, Capital One Arena, home of the NBA Washington Wizards and NHL Washington Capitals, is poised to become the first pro arena with a live sportsbook.
The Redskins obviously want to keep all of their options open.
The road to legal sports betting in Virginia began last year when Delegate Mark Sickles proposed a bill with a 15% tax rate, no official league data requirement, and a college carve out. Sports betting didn’t get far in the short session in 2019, and Sickles has continued to negotiate and fine-tune his bill, which this time around is HB 896.
Virginia lawmakers now have less than a month to sort out the details for sports betting. The General Assembly is set to adjourn on March 8.