Online Poker Report

Virginia Online Casinos

Virginia doesn’t have legal, real money online casinos at the moment. However, it’s a strong candidate to legalize them in the future.

Gambling expansion has been happening quickly in the Old Dominion. In March 2020, the state passed three gambling bills in rapid succession, legalizing online lottery, sports betting, and the construction of land-based casinos.

Those brick and mortar casinos will be key in future efforts to bring legal online casinos to the state. While some states do have online-only sports betting, every state to have legalized online casinos so far has done so in partnership with an existing land-based casino industry.

Sweepstakes casinos accept VA players

History of VA online casino legislation

Virginia’s legislature hasn’t yet made a serious attempt at passing an online casino bill. As a state that, until recently, had few gambling options of any sort, there were other steps that had to happen first.

Like most east coast states, Virginia had a thriving horse racing industry at one time. However, its only track, Colonial Downs, shut down at the end of its 2013 season. As of 2019, it has been attempting a comeback, but it’s still a scaled-back version of what it once was. There are also five licensed off-track betting facilities in the state, which allowed bets on out-of-state races even while Colonial Downs was on hiatus.

Virginia was very progressive on the issue of daily fantasy sports. In fact, it was the first state to formally legalize this activity, in 2016.

Aside from these, the only formal gambling option available in the state up through early 2020 was the lottery. This was established by a voter referendum in 1987 and sold its first tickets the following year.

Things changed dramatically in 2020. In that year, the state authorized the lottery to begin online sales, and also to oversee legal online sports betting in VA. The former is already underway, while the latter could begin as soon as January 2021. Furthermore, the same year, voters in four Virginia towns approved construction of the state’s first land-based casinos.

From here we can probably expect a pause in gambling expansion efforts as lawmakers wait to see how these three new sectors pan out. Once the land-based casinos are in operation, then we could see the state take a serious look at the possibility of online casinos.

Alternatives to online casinos in VA

Don’t let the fact that legal, real money online casinos don’t yet exist in Virginia discourage you. While you’re waiting for them to arrive, there are two perfectly good, perfectly legal alternatives that provide a pretty similar experience.

Sweepstakes casinos in VA

Sweepstakes casinos are a legal workaround for providing players a chance to win real cash prizes playing casino games. They’re available in most states, including Virginia.

Sweepstakes casinos work on a double currency system.

The first currency, often called Gold Coins, is nothing but play money. You’ll get some for free on signup and can top up periodically. You can play all the games using Gold Coins, but they’ll never be worth anything, and can’t be withdrawn or redeemed for prizes.

The second currency, usually called Sweeps Coins, is the key. These function just like the first currency, except they can be redeemed for cash prizes. The main way to get them is “for free” along with purchase of Gold Coins. You’ll buy a certain number of Gold Coins for a certain price, and receive a bonus in the form of Sweeps Coins whose redeemable value conveniently equals the amount of money you spent.

What makes this system legal is a combination of two factors. First is that the Sweeps Coins aren’t technically money even though they can be redeemed for cash prizes, and that you don’t purchase them directly but receive them while buying Gold Coins. The second is that even this purchase is technically not necessary. You can send a hand-written request to the company through the mail, and receive a small quantity of Sweeps Coins for free. This satisfies the “no purchase necessary” criterion for these casinos to fall under sweepstakes law, rather than being considered a form of gambling.

Online lottery in VA

As of July 2020, the Virginia Lottery now offers its products online. This includes tickets to its major draws like Powerball, but it also includes instant online games.

These games come in the same range of prices and potential payouts as scratch tickets. The gameplay is more interactive, however, and involves sounds and animations that often make these products resemble slot machines more than lottery tickets. Overall, playing the iLottery is quite a bit like using an online casino, and Virginia will even offer you a signup bonus.

Read more about the Virginia online lottery.

Virginia land-based casino gambling

Virginia doesn’t yet have any land-based casinos, but these are on the way. A 2020 gambling expansion bill paved the way for referendums to authorize their construction in five towns. Ultimately, only four of these made the ballot in the 2020 federal election, but all four of these votes passed.

The locations and brands for the state’s first four casinos will be as follows:

  • Bristol (Hard Rock)
  • Danville (Caesars)
  • Norfolk Resort & Casino (with Pamunkey Indian Tribe)
  • Portsmouth (Rivers)

The fifth town, whose casino proposal wasn’t ready in time for the election, is Richmond. It, too, may come up for a vote at the next available opportunity.

Building casinos takes time and none of these properties are expected to open their doors until 2022. Hard Rock does plan on opening a smaller, temporary casino in Bristol prior to the completion of its permanent property, however.

Virginia online casino FAQ 2021

Still have some questions about the potential for online casinos in VA? We’ve got you covered.

Are online casinos legal in Virginia?

Unfortunately, full-featured, real money online casinos are not currently legal in Virginia. Sweepstakes casinos and the online lottery provide the best alternatives for now.

What other forms of gambling are legal in Virginia?

You have a few options for gambling in VA:

  • The Virginia Lottery sells tickets both online and at retailers.
  • Parimutuel race betting is legal at Colonial Downs, off-track betting parlors, and through national online racebooks.
  • Daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel are formally legal as of 2016.
  • Poker home games and other forms of private gambling are legal so long as the house isn’t collecting rake or otherwise profiting.
  • Virginia sports betting and retail casinos are coming soon.

Where can I go to play online casinos legally?

There are currently five US states where you have this option:

Fortunately, WV and PA are right next door, and you don’t have to be a resident of a state to use its online casinos. You do, however, need to be physically within the state when you’re playing. If you’re itching to see what the fuss is about while you wait for Virginia to get online casinos, a road trip might be in order.

Are offshore casinos serving US citizens legal?

No! Many casinos based in other countries claim to be legal in the US, but this is not true. You probably won’t get arrested for using them, but they are unsafe in other ways. Here are just a few reasons you should stay away:

  • Offshore casinos aren’t supervised by a legitimate regulator, so there’s no guarantee that the games are fair.
  • Offshore casinos don’t keep player funds separate from their operating capital. If they go out of business, your money could just disappear with them.
  • There’s no legal recourse if you run into trouble with an offshore casino.
  • Responsible gambling isn’t something that’s taken seriously by illegal operations like offshore casinos.
  • Organized crime and terrorist groups use offshore casinos for money laundering.

When will Virginia legalize online casinos?

It’s hard to say. There’s been no concrete attempt to do so yet. However, Virginia has been very progressive on gambling in general in recent years. Probably the first thing that has to happen is that construction needs to be completed on the state’s first land-based casinos. Once these are operational, they will probably push for iGaming to be legalized.

Who will offer online casino gambling in Virginia?

This is strictly hypothetical at the moment. However, with a population of 8.5 million, Virginia is a big enough state that most major operators will want to offer their product in the state once they can.

A partial list of the brands you could expect to arrive in a VA online casino market would include:

It’s also fairly safe to assume Hard Rock would launch an online casino under its own brand due to its property in Bristol, despite being only a minor player in the online space.

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