A bill to legalize online sports betting and online lottery sales in Virginia will be taken up during the 2019 legislative session. On Tuesday, Delegate Mark Sickle prefiled a bill that seeks to authorize the VA Lottery to sell lottery tickets online, oversee online sports betting and issue up to five licenses for operators interested in serving customers across the state.
HB 1638 deals specifically with the Virginia Lottery and seeks to expand its online gaming offerings. It will be referred to committee for discussion on January 9th and that is when we’ll learn more about the bill’s chances of becoming law.
Virginia is not a particularly gambling-heavy state with no land-based casinos, but lawmakers may be inclined to approve sports betting amid pressure from neighboring states. Sports betting is already underway in West Virginia while Maryland and DC are also flirting with the idea.
If we expand the geographic range out a bit, other nearby states with sports betting already up and running include New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. The specter of missing out on revenue from Virginians traveling to nearby states may be enough to convince lawmakers to give this proposal serious consideration.
If passed, HB 1638 will task the VA Lottery with regulating online sports betting, considering applications and issuing licenses to qualified operators. Additionally, HB 1638 calls for repealing the current prohibition on selling individual lottery games online.
VA Online Sports Betting Measure
The sports betting portion of HB 1638 directs the Virginia Lottery Board to establish regulations governing sports betting and to approve up to five operators to offer online sports betting in the state.
Operators approved by the VA Lottery will be required to submit a $250,000 fee for a three-year license. Moving forward, approved operators will be subject to a $200,000 renewal fee every three years.
Licensed VA betting sites will be required to:
- Restrict sports betting to customers 21 and older
- Only accept wagers from customers physically present in Virginia
- Maintain records of all wagers placed
- Report suspicious or illegal betting activity
Online betting will be subject to a reasonable 15% tax. Tax revenue collected by the state will be allocated as follows:
- 5% to the Sports Betting Operations Fund
- 5% to the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund
- 95% to the Major Research Project Subfund to fund major research projects
Virginia sportsbooks will also be prohibited from accepting wagers on any college games involving Virginia schools and on all youth sports.
Additionally, the sports betting portion of HB 1638 clarifies that daily fantasy sports are not considered illegal gambling or sports betting.
Virginia Online Lottery
The VA Lottery currently offers online subscriptions but is still prohibited from selling individual lottery tickets and instant win games online. If HB 1638 is passed in its current form, the VA Lottery will be authorized to sell individual tickets and entries into other games over the internet.
This portion of the bill does not go into too much detail regarding the types of lottery games to be sold online aside from giving the VA Lottery the authority to make that decision. This could indicate the VA Lottery will be authorized to also offer instant win games online.
The VA Lottery will also be responsible for determining the prices of online tickets, the frequency of drawings and dealing with other administrative tasks.