In a presentation to the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee Tuesday, Virginia Lottery Director Kevin Hall confirmed that he’s aiming for launch in early 2021 of sports betting and in spring 2022 for the four new casinos approved by voters this month.
The lottery has received 25 sports betting applications to date, and not all operators will be approved. The law allows for a maximum of 12 licenses, though a little wiggle room exists since operators tethered to professional sports venues don’t count against the cap. As of today, the Washington Football Team and Major League Soccer’s DC United have practice facilities or team headquarters in Virginia, and WynnBet is banking on the idea that auto-racing venues are included as “professional sports facilities” under the law. The company is partnered with Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway.
“There is a high level of interest from national and international operators,” Hall told committee members, who met virtually. “We are now reviewing the applications and will do suitability and background checks.”
Lottery has 90 days to approve applications
According to the law, the lottery has 90 days to approve applications, and the application window closed on Oct. 31. If all the applications are considered filed on Oct. 31, 90 days forward would be Jan. 29 — just over a week ahead of Super Bowl LV, which is set for Feb. 7 in Tampa. Should the lottery use the full 90 days, it appears that the first go-live dates would be in very late January or early February 2021.
Though the lottery is not releasing the list of applicants, many of the major U.S. players are in the mix, including BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, and WynnBet. Hard Rock (Bristol), Rush Street (Portsmouth), and William Hill/Caesars (Danville) are all already partnered with casinos, giving them market access.
With regard to casinos, Hall shared a timeline for legal casino gaming that includes promulgating rules by April 2021 and licensing casinos a year later. He said the statute allows for the amount of time he’s looking at, and that while 2022 “feels like a long way off, it is well within the timelines of construction for each of the casinos.”
Voters on Nov. 3 approved brick-and-mortar casinos in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. Only the Norfolk casino doesn’t yet have a gaming partner — the city agreed to sell land to the Pamunkey Indian tribe, which has not yet announced which operator will run gaming.