On Monday, Republican Delegate Barry D. Knight pre-filed House Bill No. 4 (HB 4), which will look to amend the current Code of Virginia and authorize casino gaming in the Commonwealth, to be regulated by the Virginia Lottery Board. Casino gaming, per the bill, would include sports betting.
Virginia is among a minority of states that has blocked casino gambling for decades. With Democratic Governor Ralph Northam hesitant to flip the switch, this past session the state’s General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1126, which commissioned a study to review casino gaming laws in other states and its fiscal and social impact. The study is due before Dec. 1.
The bills adds a new Chapter to the Virginia Code entitled Casino Gaming and require a referendum of local residents in each city where a casino gaming operation would be located. HB 4 is a reenactment of Senate Bill 1126 and approval is a formality that must take place during the 2020 session in order for the local referendums to go ahead. The referendums would appear on Nov. 2020 ballots.
The cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk are among several jockeying for the ability to build a casino. Per the Virginia-Pilot, officials from nearby Hampton plan to lobby legislators to add them to the list.
Casino gambling and then sports betting
HB 4 like SB 1126 would allow for casinos to be built in “any city in which at least 40 percent of the assessed value of all real estate in such locality is exempt from local property taxation” and has experienced a population decrease of at least seven percent from 1990 to 2016 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
For each location, the board would issue a single license to a “casino gaming project that involves a minimum capital investment of $200 million, which may include investments in land facilities, infrastructure, equipment, or furnishings.”
To govern casino gambling and sports betting in any municipality to later approve by referendum, the Virginia Lottery would promulgate regulations. On that front, there is much to be written and determined.
In the meantime, one city, Portsmouth, is looking and planning ahead. Per the Pilot, Portsmouth officials voted to hire on Monday the Chicago-based gambling operator Rush Street Gaming to develop and run a casino resort on a 50-acre site near the city’s Tidewater Community College campus.
Below is a look at the (sparse) details on sports betting in this bill:
Mobile betting: Not addressed.
In-person registration required: No addressed.
Tax rate: Not addressed.
Application/renewal fee: For prospective projects – minimum investment of $200 million. No defined sports wagering certificate application fee.
Legal to bet on college games: Not addressed.
Fee or royalty or compensation to pro leagues: Not addressed.
Use of “official league data” mandated?: Not addressed.
Regulatory body: Virginia Lottery Board
Where the money goes: Not addressed.
Cap on number of licenses available: One per area where the criteria is met.