Virginia sports betting is still several steps from reality

Virginia Poised To Legalize Sports Betting And Online Gambling With Governor’s Approval

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Virginia is one of the last casino gaming holdouts. That is about to change.

After the passage of a casino expansion by the Virginia Legislature, the Old Dominion State is just a Gov. Ralph Northam signature away from legalizing casino gambling, online gambling, and sports betting.

Gov. Northam has until March 26 to sign the bill.

A look inside Virginia’s casino expansion bill

Retail casinos

The bill, SB 1126, authorizes the Virginia Lottery Board to grant a single casino license per city, provided that the city meets the following criteria:

  • That at least 40 percent of the land area must be exempt from local real property taxation, or 24 percent provided that a Virginia Indian Tribe conducts such casino gaming.
  • Had an unemployment rate of at least 5 percent in November 2017 (or 4 percent if located adjacent to a state that has adopted a Border Region Retail Tourism Development District Act), a poverty rate of at least 20 percent in 2016, and a population decrease of at least 4 percent from 1990 to 2016.
  • Has a population greater than 200,000, according to the 2017 population estimates.

Additionally, Virginia requires a casino to have the support of the local community. In addition to the above constraints, a casino proposal must pass a local referendum that is adopted no later than Jan. 1, 2021.

Online gambling and sports betting

The bill also contains mechanisms to establish legal online gambling and sports betting in Virginia.

The bill reads:

“Casino gaming” means baccarat, blackjack, twenty-one, poker, craps, dice, slot machines, sports betting, roulette wheels, Klondike tables, punchboards, faro layouts, keno layouts, numbers tickets, push cards, jar tickets, pull tabs, online gaming, and any other activity that is authorized by the Board as a wagering game or device under Chapter 41 (§ 58.1-4100 et seq.).”

Exactly how online gambling and sports betting would function appears to be left up to the Lottery Board.

Potential locations for Virginia casinos

One area already being targeted is Bristol. A local group has already pitched bringing a $150 million Bristol Resort and Casino project to the city. The casino would occupy the former Bristol Mall, which closed in 2017.

Bristol isn’t the only potential casino location. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has proposed building a casino in Norfolk.

If the legislation passes, we can expect to see some large, national casino corporations set their sights on Virginia.

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The timeline for casino gambling in Virginia

Don’t expect to be playing casino games or placing legal sports bets in Virginia anytime soon.

It will be at least a year before the first shovel touches Virginia soil for a casino groundbreaking, and at least another year before a casino would be ready to open its doors.

According to a summary of the law, following a review of casino gaming laws in other states, “the Board is required to promulgate regulations to implement the provisions of this act beginning Jan. 1, 2020, with the regulations completed by June 30, 2020.”

The Virginia Lottery Board cannot issue a casino license until July 1, 2020.

The bill also requires the legislature to reenact the bill next session.

Virginia possesses the components of a strong casino market

Virginia is one of the larger and more populous states in the nation. It’s also one of the more prosperous states in the US.

All of those metrics are conducive to gaming.

A large, geographical area, coupled with the strict geographic criteria that casinos must abide by, allows a state to place casinos strategically.

Not only can Virginia avoid saturating an in-state region, but it can also avoid border areas where an existing casino sits in a neighboring state. Similarly, it can target a border that is devoid of casinos in an effort to attract out-of-state patrons.

With 8.5 million residents, Virginia ranks 12th in total population, and its residents are fairly well off. Virginia ranks ninth in per capita income and 13th in disposable income.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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