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Virginia Moves Closer To Casino Gambling And Sports Betting

They had plenty of bills to choose from, but the Virginia House and Senate are moving forward with similar, but not identical casino bills, as well as similar, but not identical sports betting legislation and online lottery legislation.

However, the differences between the two chambers will need to be reconciled, and the House and Senate have less than a month to do it – Virginia’s legislative session ends on March 7.

Casinos Finally Coming to Virginia?

With momentum on its side, it looks like Virginia might finally get brick and mortar casinos.

The House engrossed HB 4 on Monday. The legislation is similar to last year’s casino authorization efforts. The legislation would authorize up to five casinos, as well as sports betting and lottery upgrades. The bill would bring about two tribal casinos, in Richmond and Norfolk, but requires local referendums for commercial casinos in Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth.

In the Senate, there’s SB 36. The bill is expected to see some action today.

The Senate Finance Committee made several significant changes to SB 36 last week, including:

  • Raising the tiered tax rate from 15%-28% to 27%-40%. HB 4 kept the tiered tax structure between 15%-28%.
  • Increasing the licensing fee from $1 million to $15 million.
  • Allowing Colonial Downs to add as many as 2,500 more historical horse racing machines.

Both pieces of legislation also include retail sports betting and lottery language.

Sports Betting Bills are Similar but Different

On the Virginia sports betting front, both chambers passed sports betting legislation that would authorize online sports betting (with some retail sportsbook language), as well as online lottery sales – Virginia currently offers online subscriptions for draw games.

HB 896  easily passed the House, with a final vote tally of 69-29.

In the Senate, SB 384 passed by a 27-12 margin.

The bills are quite similar, including a stipulation that official league data will be used for in-play bets and limiting retail betting to professional sports teams.  

The differences between the two bills will need to be reconciled before the March 7 legislative deadline.

They include:

  • SB 384 taxes sports betting at 15%. HB 896 taxes sports betting at 20% tax.
  • HB 896 allows for 4 to 12 online licenses and includes provisions that allow major sports leagues to apply for retail sportsbook licenses. SB 384 provides 6-10 online licenses.
  • The House bill also includes a prohibition on in-state college betting.

Online Poker and Casino Don’t Appear to Be on the Agenda

Much to the dismay of online poker and casino advocates, it doesn’t look like either will find its way into legislation.

In addition to the legislative time constraint, there simply isn’t an appetite for poker or casino in the state.

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