If there are any themes from the dozen comments posted on Virginia’s Regulatory Town Hall website in response to proposed sports betting rules, they are:
- People want sports betting as soon as possible;
- Bettors who win shouldn’t be penalized or banned; and
- D.C.’s new sports betting app isn’t going over too well.
The Virginia Lottery rolled out Phase 1 of its proposed sports betting rules in mid-July with the rest to come on Aug. 10. The public was invited to comment ahead of the Phase 1 proposed rules, and a formal public-comment period opened on July 15, when the rules were released. So far, there are fewer than 15 comments dealing with sports betting specifically from 10 interested parties — though none appear to be a sports betting operator, supplier, or any other kind of major stakeholder.
As has been the case in other states, the Lottery will consider all comments and potentially rework proposed regulations, if needed.
Winners shouldn’t be penalized, cut off
A trio of commenters asked the Lottery to make sure it does not cut off players who win more often than they lose, and requested a mandate for a “speedy withdrawal” system and guidelines to make promos clear.
“Sportsbooks should not be allowed to ban players just because they win more than they lose,” wrote Joseph Williams. “When Operators get to pick and choose their players based on skill, that goes against integrity and transparency. New Jersey does not allow Books to do this. Virginia should adopt this as well.”
One prominent sports bettor, who is known across the industry as Captain Jack Andrews, has been critical of operators for their proclivity for severely reducing betting limits for sharp bettors. Restricting professional bettors from making wagers of a certain amount while capitalizing on less-informed bettors can seem “un-American,” or even predatory at times, Andrews argues.
With regard to withdrawals and promos, Adam Whitt posted the following comment:
“Operators should be required to make withdrawal transfers immediately on-demand, such that they are credited to a customer’s bank account instantly. Promo terms are often misleading, such as ‘free plays’ which are designed so that they can never be cashed out. Operators should be required to state them clearly and unequivocally, giving concrete examples of how they work.”
Virginia Sports Betting: No Hold Required https://t.co/HwV7eZJk6y
— Sue Schneider (@SuziQSchneider) July 16, 2020
The Phase 1 proposed regulations include a Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights, Consumer Protections, Voluntary Exclusion and Permit Applications. The Bill of Rights, which is the first of its kind mandated by state law, or the consumer protections section of the proposed regulations could certainly be expanded to include some of the concerns noted, should the Lottery deem them worth including.
Most interesting, however, was that at least two commenters took the public-comment opportunity as a chance to bash neighboring Washington, D.C. The lottery there rolled out its GamBetDC mobile/online platform in May, and the reception has been lukewarm. There has been much discussion in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia metro area about how bettors cross over state lines for work and pleasure and how each jurisdiction will try to capture market share from all of the movement.
No love for GamBetDC in Virginia
Ted Phillips, a commenter who clearly has a beef with the online banking firm Skrill, and Williams both had negative things to say about GamBetDC:
Currently sports gambling is legalized in both WV (West Virginia) and DC. It’s silly to have to drive across borders to place a legal sports wager in this day and age. Further, there are difficulties in funding an account on the DC Gambet online platform. – Ted Phillips
Washington DC Intralot online sporstbook is one of the most egregious examples of high prices. – Joseph Williams
The small sample size listed on the site along with two comments seeking clarification for who can apply for a sports betting license in Virginia that were submitted ahead of the Phase 1 proposed regulations are just the start of the conversation. Once the Phase 2 proposed regulations are posted on Monday, key stakeholders will likely begin asking questions, as they have in other states ranging from New Hampshire to Tennessee to Illinois.
The Virginia Lottery next meets on Sept. 15, at which point it will vote to approve the proposed regulations. From there, the regulations must be posted in the Virginia Register before the Lottery can open the application process. Lottery officials have an aggressive timeline and hope to move quickly enough to allow operators to go live with sports betting by the end of the year.