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The Virginia Legislature has passed a sweeping gambling expansion bill containing mechanisms that could bring casinos, sports betting, and online gambling to the Commonwealth.
The legislation cleared the Senate (30-10) and the House (64-33) in late February before Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill into law on Friday, according to The Roanoke Times.
The casino bill went through a number of revisions and amendments during its three-month run through the legislature. The result was something altogether different than past efforts.
One of the last additions could be one of the most consequential. The words “online gaming” were added to the definition of casino gaming.
“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.).”
Before you get too excited, the Virginia gaming bill is ambiguous. The legislation requires multiple facilitating actions before any gambling expansion becomes reality.
In laymen’s terms, the bill won’t be official until:
If that all comes to fruition, local lawmakers can then hold referendums in qualifying locations.
One of the more interesting parts of the bill is the power it appears to give the VA Lottery Board to authorize different types of gaming. The bill contains detailed provisions for casinos, but it only mentions sports betting and online gambling once apiece.
Precisely how sports betting or online gambling would be carried out — tax rates, market access, responsible gaming policies — is a complete unknown. If they end up being part of the equation, regulators will likely limit licensure to land-based casinos.
As noted above, though, the law doesn’t require them to include online gaming and/or sports betting.
The board could:
This story will continue to develop over the next 12-18 months.