Virginia is for lovers… of straight bets or 8-team multi-sport parlays. In March of 2020, the Virginia General Assembly and Senate passed SB 384 and HB 896 to bring legal sports betting to the state. A few weeks later, Gov. Ralph Northam sent amended versions of the bills back to lawmakers, who approved them in a reconvened session on April 22, 2020, which officially legalized sports betting in Virginia.
The hope now is that Virginians — and visitors from Washington D.C., Maryland or anywhere else — may be able to place online wagers by the end of 2020. The Virginia Lottery in May released a timeline for approving sports betting regulations and opening the application process for sportsbooks and vendors to obtain licensure.
Betting at brick-and-mortar sportsbook lounges will take longer. The legislature also approved up to five cities to build new casinos that may house sportsbooks, but each city will need to have a referendum on whether they want to build casinos in their municipalities, and of course construction will take time.
Online and mobile sportsbook apps in Virginia
So which online and mobile sportsbooks might be coming to Virginia? The short answer is “quite possibly most of ‘em,” based on the fact up to 17 sportsbooks are allowed in the state, and even New Jersey – which was first to market and offers a good business environment for sportsbook operators – has “only” about 18 online sportsbooks currently operating under a law that would allow up to 42.
Are there sure things to arrive in Virginia? Clearly not, as growing heavy-hitter DraftKings Sportsbook initially struggled to find a pathway into Pennsylvania, and likewise PointsBet, citing the high tax rates and licensing fee. But with Virginia’s tax rate at 15% on gross sports betting revenue (New Jersey’s is 13% for online books) it would appear the field is wide open.
How many online sportsbooks in VA?
There could be up to 17 mobile platforms — some stand alone and some tethered to casinos — in Virginia when all is said and done. The text of the law reads that the state will have a minimum of four mobile books and a maximum of 12. But those numbers aren’t as firm as they appear. In fact, Virginia will likely have a minimum of eight mobile sportsbooks and up to 17.
Why? According to the text in the law and the FAQs section on the Virginia Lottery’s new sports betting site, licenses awarded to pro teams/venues or casinos would NOT count toward the minimum, and licenses awarded to pro teams/venues would NOT count toward the maximum.
Translation? Under any circumstance, there will be at least four stand-alone mobile platforms in addition to those tethered to casinos operating in the state. But there could be as many as 17 mobile licenses (the stated maximum of 12 plus up to five for pro teams/venues) in Virginia, which would create the open, competitive marketplace that benefits bettors.
So while we can’t say with certainty that the following sportsbooks will apply for and gain VA sports betting licenses, many of them will. Here’s a partial list:
- Circa Sports
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- FOX Bet
- Golden Nugget
- William Hill
As for the potential of land-based sportsbooks, things are a little less certain. Again, the legislature has made allowances for five “economically challenged” (as the bill states) cities – Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Richmond – to build casino (and sportsbook) operations, but voters in each city will have the final say-so come November 3.
As with most big-money deals, who and/or what will be operating these as-yet mythical casino/sportsbook operations is up in the air, but the Associated Press has reported that coal industrialist Jim McGlothlin wants to open the Hard Rock Bristol Resort and Casino with Hard Rock as an equity partner. The federally recognized Pamunkey Indian Tribe is looking at Norfolk and Richmond for sites for $350 million casinos.
Elsewhere, in Portsmouth, the city council already voted to allow Chicago-based gambling company Rush Street Gaming LLC to build a 50-acre resort and casino near the city’s Tidewater Community College camps.
“I promise you we will build something you’ll be proud of,” said Rush Street Gaming chairman and co-founder Neil Bluhm, a real estate billionaire whose firm operates casinos in Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, and Colorado. “We couldn’t be more thrilled that you’ve selected us to develop a terrific entertainment district facility.”
Rush Street Gaming
Bluhm’s Rush Street would bring the BetRivers Sportsbook to Virginia, or at least the Rush Street Interactive software that powers BetRivers.
Another group to watch out for is the MGM Resorts International, as it is expected the Maryland-based MGM National Harbor will certainly take a financial hit should five casinos pop up in Virginia. A legislative study in Virginia showed roughly 30% of MGM’s income comes from Virginia residents.
And let’s not forget the Washington Redskins, a team actively shopping for a new home once their lease for FedEx Field in Landover, Md. ends in 2027.
Virginia is now in the running to host the NFL stadium, because the law permits Virginia-based professional stadiums or major professional teams with headquarters in Virginia to obtain licensure to run brick-and-mortar and online sportsbooks. Redskins owner Dan Snyder has made it clear that’s what he wants, and Maryland did not make any provision for that in the recently passed bill that would leave legal Maryland sports betting up to the voters in November 2020.
According to the text of the bill, up to five professional sports teams/venues could offer retail and mobile sports wagering — one each from Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, the NFL, and Major League Soccer.
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Carve-outs for college sports
Sports betting in Virginia will look similar to most other states, with two notable exceptions, both regarding college sports.
First up, you won’t be able to wager on any and all Virginia college and university action. This is similar to New Jersey’s law, where in-state collegiate betting markets are closed. It would have been frustrating or problematic during the Virginia Cavaliers’ NCAA men’s college basketball championship run in 2019.
Regulating the whole operation will be the Virginia Lottery, and that outfit has until Sept. 15 to issue guidelines for would-be operators.
An additional wrinkle in the Virginia legalization push is the state of sports wagering in the nation’s capital. In 2019, it was was legalized in Washington, D.C., but as of the time of this writing, not a single legal bet had been placed. The D.C. Lottery introduced its “GamBetDC” sportsbook app in late March, but opted not to launch it with the dearth of sports being contested during the COVID-19 crisis beginning March 2020. The Lottery will likely go live as soon as professional sports come back. There does not appear to be a public timeline for the launch of commercial sports betting yet.
Why? Politics, mostly, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Additionally, the only District-wide online operator at this time would be the DC Lottery, operating a system via Intralot, which has already rolled out an abominable product in Montana.
Brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in D.C.?
They’ll be coming at the big arenas and ballparks, including at Capital One Arena, as well as bars and restaurants able to apply for individual licenses. It looks and feels like a big mess right now, and the transient population around the D.C. area means Virginia-based sportsbooks would likely take a big slice of the action.
Meanwhile, Virginia’s legalization may also pull some customers from West Virginia, which legalized sports betting in March of 2018. DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM all have online sportsbooks there, and there are five brick-and-mortar operations at all the existing casinos and racetracks.
As noted above, Maryland residents in November will have a chance to vote on whether or not to allow legal sports betting, although the bill is bare bones and would leave a whole lot up to the regulations. So we don’t know yet what things might look like there. Unlike Virginia, Maryland already has six operating casinos and a gaming control agency.
While no announcements have been made yet, it’s safe to assume sportsbooks will utilize most or all of the same banking options in Virginia as in other states. These include the following, though not all sportsbooks utilize all of these options.
- Online banking
- Cash at the casino cages
- Site-specific prepaid debit cards
- Paper check
Frequently asked questions
Is sports betting live in the state of Virginia?
Yes, but regulations need to be written and approved, and sportsbooks need to obtain licenses before bets can be placed. Best guess scenarios would allow for online sports betting to be up and running at some point in late 2020 or early 2021.
Who can place a real-money sports bet in Virginia?
If the bill becomes law, anyone ages 21 or older within Virginia state limits will be able to place a wager.
How many online sportsbooks will be available in Virginia?
Anywhere between four and 18, depending on what the Virginia Lottery decides.
Will mobile sportsbooks offer bonuses for new players?
Based on their activities in other states, almost certainly.
How will I deposit online?
Depends, but a safe bet will be using methods such as PayPal, ACH transfer and prepaid cards.
What bet types and betting markets will be available?
To be determined, but it’s reasonable to expect all sports and bet types that are currently available in other states will be available in Virginia. Two notable exceptions: Wagering on games involving Virginia collegiate teams will not be allowed, and live betting on any college game will also be prohibited.
What is the history of sports betting in Virginia?
Less than two months after PASPA was overturned, the Virginia Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne predicted sports gambling was headed to the state. And he was right!
How legal sports betting came to be in Virginia
Legal sports betting’s arrival Virginia may come as a bit of a surprise to many residents. After all, Virginia has been one of the few states where there are currently zero casinos, commercial or tribal, operating in the state.
Virginia does, however, have a rich history of horse racing, datingback to the first settlers. (Despite the Puritan nature of the times, horse racing has always been a thing in Virginia.) But outside of Virginia voters bringing the lottery to town in 1987, gambling in Virginia has been relatively barren compared to other states.
And then in the spring of 2018, when PASPA was overturned, sports betting in the Old Dominion state began its relatively quick journey from idea to actuality.
The first bill was put forward in November of 2018, and much of it came to pass, namely the 15% tax, the $250,000 operator fee, and the ban on betting on Virginia collegiate sports. One key difference: The original bill, written by Delegate Mark Sickles, would have only allowed for five operators.
The VA sports betting law
The matching bills passed in the respective chambers, SB 384 and HB 896, allow for up to five land-based brick-and-mortar sportsbooks for the cities of Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Richmond. No casinos currently exist in these cities (or anywhere else, for that matter) and voters in each city will have the chance to choose whether they want a casino or not this coming November 3.
Online sportsbooks, however, could be up and running by the end of 2020. The Virginia Lottery is in charge of regulating the sportsbook world in Virginia, and they will have to issue a set of rules and guidelines for would-be sportsbooks by Sept. 15, 2020. From there, the application process will open, and according to the Virginia Lottery website, digital sports betting could be up and running by mid-late December 2020.
The new laws specifically calls for between a minimum of four and maximum of 12 sports betting permits to be issued at any one time (with a maximum of 17 total) and that the amount issued should “maximize tax revenue.”
Reading between the lines, it would certainly appear the legislature is keen to get a competitive marketplace up and running sooner than later.
Would-be operators would on a sliding scale for a three-year license. The bills originally called for a flat $250,000 license fee, but among Northam’s amendment was one that calls for a $50,000 fee per principal within an organization. A principal is defined as someone who has a 5% or more ownership stake in a company. The tax rate is set at 15%.
The bill requires a couple things that the pro sports leagues have lobbied for — a requirement for “official league data,” which is dissected and criticized here, as well as the requirement that sportsbooks provide leagues with “real-time” data, which is another onerous provision.
It is possible that the first sports bet could be placed in Virginia by the end of 2020. The timeline is somewhat aggressive, considering that neither D.C. nor Tennessee, both of which legalized last year and have no casino infrastructure, do not yet have live sports betting. But once licenses are issued, sportsbooks could be up and running once they pass technical checks.
This page will be updated with developments as they occur.