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Virginia is a state that has trailed some of its east coast neighbors in gambling until recently. It’s now playing catch-up, and there is a ton of momentum behind gambling expansion in the Old Dominion.
The state legalized sports betting in spring 2020, as one of three gambling bills that it passed in rapid succession. The other two established the Virginia online lottery, and got the ball rolling on the construction of brick-and-mortar casinos.
This puts Virginia in the unusual, though not unique position of having launched sports betting before there is anywhere to put retail sportsbooks. As such, online sports betting launched on its own in January 2021. There are several states that have retail betting but no online option, yet the only other state with online-only betting is Tennessee.
While the situation in Tennessee might last indefinitely, Virginia will definitely get retail betting in time. The first casinos will likely open their doors sometime in 2022, and will include sportsbooks. Some retail betting might be authorized at other locations at the same time.
Virginia’s sports betting bill required that a minimum of four sportsbooks be ready to launch before any could do so. It only took about nine months between legalization and launch day, which is a fairly good timeline for any sort of online gambling.
The first five operators to launch were:
These include, not coincidentally, some of the biggest brands in the industry. FanDuel got its app off the ground first on January 21, 2021, and the other four followed not long after.
Eventually, the Virginia market may comprise up to 12 brands, the maximum permitted under its laws. Although there are enough brands operating in the US to hit that limit, it may take a while for the market to fill up. It’s safe to assume that certain other large operators will launch in the next few months, however, potentially including:
Here’s a quick rundown of the VA sports betting apps and websites you can bet on at the moment:
FanDuel is a household name in the US thanks to its position as a leader in the daily fantasy sports industry. It has leveraged that success to be a top contender in the new US sports betting market as well. Its acquisition by Flutter (then Paddy Power Betfair) in 2017 has helped as well, giving it access to both capital and experience in the sports betting space.
Though it allows online betting through both its website and its mobile app, it has invested heavily in the latter. It is therefore known for having some of the best software around for betting on your phone. The FanDuel app is available for both iPhone and Android.
The FanDuel welcome bonus is also one of the best around. It’s a one-shot offer, and requires a substantial deposit, but your first bet will be risk free up to a maximum of $1000. Be sure to take full advantage of that if FanDuel is the sportsbook you choose.
DraftKings’ history is almost identical to FanDuel’s, save for the fact that it went public on its own rather than being acquired by a larger company. That independence has allowed it considerable flexibility, and it’s among the more innovative and aggressive operators in the market.
In most markets they’ve entered, DraftKings and FanDuel duke it out for the top spot, and there’s no reason to expect Virginia to be different. Like FanDuel, DraftKings has invested heavily in its mobile product. The DraftKings Sportsbook app for Virginia is extremely slick and available for users on both iOS and Android.
DraftKings has a different sort of welcome bonus than FanDuel. First, it has a $25 no deposit signup bonus, which is great if you’re looking to get your feet wet without putting your own money on the line. Second, it offers a 20% match on first deposits, up to $1000. Of course, that means you’d need to deposit $5000 to take full advantage, so the two halves of the welcome bonus will each tend to appeal to a different segment of bettors.
BetMGM is a joint venture between the retail casino company MGM Resorts International and the international online operator Entain (formerly GVC).
Compared to the other brands in Virginia, BetMGM is relatively more focused on its online casino product than sports betting. That said, until late 2020, that casino was only available in New Jersey, while its sportsbook was more widespread. At the time of launch, Virginia was the tenth state in which it operated.
BetMGM considers itself a luxury brand, and attempts to connect its online product with the live experience offered at MGM resorts. In particular, the BetMGM loyalty program, M Life Rewards, is geared towards customers who use both, or who play online but are interested in visiting or staying at one of its retail properties in future.
Its welcome offer consists solely of a first deposit bonus of up to $500. It’s a 100% match, however, so you’ll only need to deposit $500 to claim the maximum reward.
BetRivers is a relative newcomer to the online gambling space. It’s owned by Rush Street, and didn’t dive directly into the New Jersey market like most of its competitors. Rather, its home base is Pennsylvania, where its parent company owns two casinos and operates online both as BetRivers and as PlaySugarHouse.
Its sportsbook is now active in more than a half-dozen states and the brand is well positioned to duke it out with other top operators for market leadership. Like BetMGM, it has a loyalty program – iRush Rewards – that integrates both with its other online verticals and with Rush Street’s retail properties.
Its app is very fast and responsive. It holds a slight edge over most competitors in terms of the time it takes to get a bet in, which can make a big difference for in play betting.
The BetRivers Sportsbook signup bonus isn’t huge in dollar terms: a 100% match on a first deposit of up to $250. However, the play through requirements for that bonus are very easy. You’ll only have to bet the money once before it becomes eligible for withdraw, so there’s less commitment than there is for some other sites with bonuses that look larger on paper.
William Hill is an immensely popular brand in the UK, and one with a long history. In the US, however, it’s still attempting to establish itself. The company runs a large number of retail sportsbooks in Nevada, but lags behind homegrown American brands in the online space in other states.
The William Hill sports betting app has nice, clean look and a responsive interface. Both the mobile app and website are well implemented. It’s also a very friendly platform for inexperienced users, with easy navigation and in-depth betting guides to help you learn the ropes. There’s a good selection of bet types and events to bet on as well.
The one downside is that its welcome bonus isn’t quite as appealing as the others. Using code LEGALRF for your first deposit, you’ll get a risk-free first bet up to $500. One catch is that if the bet loses, the reimbursement won’t be in the form of cash or bonus credit. Rather, you’ll receive another free bet, of the same value as the first, which you must use within seven days.
In many ways, getting ready to place your first bets online is easier than visiting a retail sportsbook. There’s a reason why, in states which have both, online sportsbooks usually account for 80% or more of all betting.
There are still a few steps you’ll have to go through, however.
Above, you’ll find mini-reviews of the four operators currently doing business in Virginia. You can find more information if you click through to the full reviews for each.
There are a few factors to consider when picking a site:
Most sportsbooks are available both in your browser and as downloadable mobile sportsbook apps. If you’re going to be playing on your phone, you’ll definitely want the app, as the browser versions aren’t optimized for small displays.
If you’re on iOS, then you’ll find your sportsbook in the App Store. You can also just click the Play Now button above or on our review pages while on your mobile device, and it will take you there. Installing it will be just the same as any other free app. Apple will ask for your password or Touch ID to confirm the download, but you won’t be charged.
If you’re on Android, then things are about to change. At the moment, Google does not allow gambling apps on its Play Store. You’ll therefore need to download the app directly from the operator’s website. In order to do so, you may first need to go to your device’s Settings menu, navigate to the Security submenu, and tick the box allowing downloads from “Unknown sources.”
Starting in March 2021, however, Google’s policies will change, and installing Android sportsbook apps will be just as easy as it is for iOS users.
Meanwhile, if you want to use your browser, you won’t need to download anything right away. However, during the signup process, you’ll be prompted to install a geolocation plug-in so the operator can determine whether you’re in the state and allowed to bet. This capability is built into the mobile apps, so they don’t require an additional download.
The sign-up process for sportsbooks isn’t that complicated. For the most part, it’s just like signing up for an account at your favorite online shopping destination, except with a bit more detailed information required.
The biggest hurdle may be verifying your identity. Most operators use automated systems to streamline this process, but these don’t always work for everyone. Depending on your circumstances, you may be required to provide additional proof, in the form of photographs or scans of supporting documents. This is for your own safety, so it’s worth the hassle.
Some sites may give you some free money to play with just for signing up. If not, then you’ll need to make your first deposit before you can wager. Naturally, operators want to make this as easy as possible, so you shouldn’t have any trouble locating the Deposit button.
You’ll then have to pick a deposit method. In states with retail sportsbooks, you can do so directly in person, but that isn’t an option in Virginia at the moment. The options you’ll have available will depend on the operator, but will typically include:
There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that you can bet on all professional sports, including but not limited to:
The bad news is that Virginia is among those states to have placed restrictions on betting on college sports. You can bet on whatever NCAA sports you like, but unfortunately not on any match involving a team based in Virginia.
Like many states, Virginia’s law wasn’t originally very specific about what constitutes “a sport.” That left ambiguities about the legality of betting on things like eSports or mind sports. The state’s legislature is currently in the process of passing a new law to remove the ambiguity and make these bets legal.
Aside from the prohibition on wagering on in-state college teams, Virginia’s rules don’t impose very many restrictions. You’ll find all the same lines available here that you would in other states. These include the following.
Moneylines are the most straightforward of bet types. You are simply picking the winner of the event in question. These bets are simply refunded if there is no winner, for instance in the case of sports where draws are possible.
Naturally, most sporting events have one side which is favored to win. Thus, the payouts for moneyline bets aren’t symmetric. US sportsbooks provide their odds in a format which is known internationally as American odds, but confusingly usually referred to as moneyline odds at home, even though they’re used to express the odds for all types of bets.
These odds consist of a three-digit (or larger) number, preceded by either a + or a –. Positive odds represent the underdog in the event. The number represents the profit you will make on a winning bet if you risk $100. For instance, if the moneyline odds are +200, you bet $100, and your team wins, you will receive your $100 back plus $200 profit for a total of $300.
Negative odds represent the favorite. Now, $100 is the profit you will make if you win, and the number listed is the wager size you would need to win that much. One way of looking at this is that you’re taking the other side of the plus-odds bet on the underdog. For instance, if the moneyline odds are -200, you bet $200, and your team wins, you will receive your $200 back, plus $100 profit, again for a total of $300.
If sportsbooks weren’t looking to make a profit, the odds on each time in a two-sided contest would be the inverse of each other, e.g. +200/-200. In practice, however, bookmakers want to bake in a profit margin, so the odds won’t quite line up. You might instead see +170/-200 for instance. The difference between the two sides is called the juice or vigorish.
Spread betting is another way of betting on the outcome of games, but handicapped so as to correct for the difference in strength between the two sides. Unlike a moneyline bet, you’ll get close to even odds (minus vigorish) on both teams, usually -110/-110.
Instead, the bookmaker will set a handicap, called the spread, meant to equalize things. This takes the form of virtual points added to the score for the underdog, or subtracted from the score of the favorite. You’ll sometimes see this called by a sport-specific name like puck line (for hockey) rather than simply a “spread.”
For instance, if the spread on a football game is New England +6.5 / Philadelphia -6.5, this means that New England would need to win by at least 7 points for a bet on them to succeed. Conversely, a bet on Philadelphia could still win provided they lose the game by less than 7 points. The half-point is included to prevent ties; if you see a spread that ends in .0, then a tie is possible and will result in the bet being refunded.
Sometimes, especially for low-scoring sports like soccer and hockey, it’s not possible to pick a spread that makes the odds come out even. In this case, you may see lopsided odds like +110/-130 alongside the spread.
Another option you’ll have for virtually every event is to bet on the total score of the game. This is also frequently called the over/under, because the bookmaker will set the line at the expected average result, and you’re betting on whether the actual game will come in over or under that total.
As with spread betting, the odds on each side of the bet should be close, but won’t necessarily be identical. Once again, it’s harder to set a perfect line in a lower-scoring sport. Thus, basketball totals will usually balance out with the same odds on both sides, while an over/under for soccer might look like Over 2.5 (+150) / Under 2.5 (-180).
Many sportsbooks will also offer lopsided spreads and totals bets, with appropriate odds. For instance, if the main spread for a football match is +3.5 for the underdog, you could instead bet on them at +6.5 with a less favorable payout, or at just +1.5 (or even a negative spread) with correspondingly bigger payouts. Alternative totals work the same way; if the even-money total is 54.5 but you’re sure it’s going to be a high-scoring game, you might be able to get on it being over 60.5 instead, and get longer odds on your dollar.
These alternative lines are usually listed separately from the main lines, further down the page or in a separate tab.
Futures bets are what they sound like: bets on things that will happen far in the future, typically at the end of the season. These will typically have more than two possible outcomes, so usually no single pick will be a favorite against the field. Instead, you’ll have a list of options, most or all of which will have positive moneyline odds attached.
The most common type of futures bet is on the ultimate winner of the season. You may also be able to bet on how far a given team makes it in the playoffs (or if they qualify at all), or which player will win a certain award.
In a nutshell, a proposition bet (or “prop” for short) is just any bet that doesn’t fall under the above categories. Informally, this can be anything, from betting on the weather to whether a celebrity couple gets divorced.
Within the context of a legal sportsbook, however, proposition bets are still limited to bets on sporting events. The simplest sorts of proposition bets are those which resemble the main lines, but just for part of a game. For instance, you might bet on the team that is winning at halftime, or the total score at that point in the game.
More complicated props include bets on the performance of individual players, the frequency of non-scoring events (e.g. number of penalty yards in a football game), or whether a certain low-probability event will occur (e.g. whether someone will hit a hole in one during a golf tournament).
In play betting is the most exciting innovation that online betting has brought to the industry. It existed in very limited form at retail sportsbooks, but the speed of online betting expands the possibilities massively.
In play betting allows you to place bets – whether on main lines or props – even as the action is underway. The odds are updated as the game progresses. This can happen very quickly, and sometimes betting will be temporarily disabled (for instance, during a disputed call). The best time to place in play bets is during timeouts and commercial breaks, as it gives you a moment to study the odds while they aren’t changing.
There are some types of props that are only available in play. Most notable of these is current drive betting in football. This allows you to bet on whether the team which currently has the football will ultimately end up punting, attempting a field goal, scoring a touchdown, or turning the ball over.
Most states with legal sports betting had retail casinos in place beforehand. In order to protect the land-based gambling industry, these states generally require online operators to partner with a retail property and share some of their revenue.
That is not the case in Virginia, because there are no retail casinos to partner with. As such, VA online sportsbooks operate independently, though the number of licenses available is capped at 12.
Virginia is going about things in the opposite way from most states, in that it is starting with mobile sports betting and will add retail sportsbooks when its casinos are complete.
There will be at least four casinos in the state, and probably five. Four cities had a referendum on the subject in the 2020 general election, and said yes to casinos. One other was included in the casino bill but failed to get a proposal together in time for the election and will have to hold a referendum this year. These are:
The state has decided to allow its two auto racing tracks to host sportsbooks as well. Thus, there will likely be a total of at least seven retail sportsbooks in VA in a few years’ time.
One other possibility is FedEx Field, home to the Washington Football Team. Currently it is on the Maryland side of D.C., but there is talk of moving it to Virginia, which would make it a prime candidate for a sportsbook.
There are no retail sportsbooks in Virginia at the moment. However, here are the seven general areas (five towns and two racetracks) where they are expected in future. Markers show the towns only, not specific sites for the casinos which will be built there. FedEx field is not currently included.
Yes! The Virginia legislature legalized sports betting in spring 2020.
Yes! The first online sportsbooks launched in Virginia in January 2021.
Yes! In fact, online betting (including both apps and browser-based betting) is the only way to bet in Virginia at the moment.
Not yet. There are five casinos planned for the state, each of which will probably have a sportsbook. The two auto racetracks in the state are also planning on having one apiece.
Yes, but only on games which involve two out of state teams. If a college team from Virginia is playing, you can’t bet on the event.
Virginia charges sportsbooks a reasonable 15% on their net winnings. This is neither particularly high nor low compared to other states. The $250,000 license fee is on the high side, but not excessive.
Virginia didn’t have a casino industry prior to the legalization of sports betting, so it doesn’t have a gaming control board or similar organization. Rather, gambling in Virginia is under the jurisdiction of the state lottery.
To get in touch with the Virginia Lottery, call (804) 692-7777 or visit their contact page.
Yes! Safety for the gambler is the primary benefit of a legal gambling industry. The Virginia Lottery monitors sports betting operators and the matches being wagered on to ensure their integrity.
Other advantages of legal betting over the illegal, offshore alternative include: