The Virginia legislature approved a sports betting bill that would permit online wagering in the commonwealth. Assuming Gov. Ralph Northam signs the bill into law as expected, here’s everything bettors need to know about Virginia sports betting.

Online, Retail Sportsbook Details

Virginia sports bettors will have multiple mobile betting options. Just how many remains to be seen.

The sports betting law mandates at least four “sports wagering platforms” but allows no more than 12. Virginia Lottery officials have leeway to determine the license recipients, but are required to consider the effect each new license will have on the amount of gross revenue and associated tax revenue generated by all existing permit holders.

Industry stakeholders and interest groups have lobbied states for a wide-ranging, competitive marketplace as the best way to generate revenue. Colorado, New Jersey and Indiana allow more than 30 mobile skins each.

Lottery officials will first have to determine which entities can take bets. The law gives preferred treatment to professional sports teams headquartered in Virginia, and those licenses won’t count against the 12-skin cap. The Washington Redskins are the only franchise that currently meets that requirement.

Secondary priority is also given to five casinos the General Assembly approved earlier this year in a separate bill. In November, all five casinos will be subject to majority voter approval in their respective jurisdictions. Assuming approval, all five will almost assuredly apply for mobile sports betting licenses.

The remaining businesses to receive licenses are undetermined. Beyond restrictions that prohibit more than one skin per business, the law doesn’t specify which types of businesses can apply.

This could be clarified as regulators promulgate further rules, but shouldn’t deter market participation. Virginia’s handle should be several billion dollars annually, and there should be ample interest from both commercial businesses looking to offer bets as well as third-party sportsbooks seeking market entry.

All this means bettors should have at least four options once sports betting begins, likely in the next 12 months, and probably more either at launch or shortly thereafter.

Types Of Bets Offered

The legislation does not permit any types of bets on in-state college teams, one of the more restrictive measures of any sports betting legislation bills in the country. In the Old Dominion, this prohibits wagers on popular instate programs such as the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. All prop bets on any in-state or out-of-state college team are prohibited as well.

Aside from explicit bans on sporting events for the high school level (and below), the bill permits wagering on a wide range of professional leagues and sports. The law also permits single-game bets, teaser bets, parlays, totals, moneylines, pools, exchange wagering, in-game wagering, in-play bets, proposition bets and straight bets. More betting options could also be approved.

Additionally, the bill forbids the purchase of personal biometric data unless the licensee has received written permission from the athlete’s exclusive bargaining representative. This isn’t a common practice now, but athletes and sports leagues have worked to make sure biometric data and similar medial information remains private.

Regulatory Structure

The Virginia Lottery will oversee sports betting under the purview of its director and board. Officials have until Sept. 15, 2020, to finalize regulations, a process that will include consumer protection protocols as well as a bettors’ “Bill of Rights.” The public will also have a chance to comment on any proposed rules before they can come into effect.

The director will also determine payment methods for deposits and withdraws. ACH payments, credit cards, debit cards and wire transfers are all specifically mentioned in the bill, but the director has the authority to include additional provisions, which could include digital payment processors such as PayPal.

Taxes And Fees

Sportsbooks will be taxed 15% of adjusted gross revenue, one of the higher rates in the country. The median tax rate is around 10% in the 24 jurisdictions that take bets now or have legalized bills to do so.

For bettors, this means most sportsbooks operators will still have an interest in the market, unlike exorbitant effective rates in Rhode Island (51%) and Pennsylvania (36%) have dissuaded operator participation.

All applicants must remit a nonrefundable $250,000 application fee. A renewal license is necessary after three years and costs $200,000. These fees are lower than the national average, which can range from a few thousand dollars to $10 million. The rate is, presumably, low enough to attract every major national brand.

Virginia also requires sportsbooks to remit “commercially reasonable” fees for in-play betting data. It is just the fourth state with this requirement, following Tennessee, Michigan and Illinois. The fees were opposed by operators and industry advocates.

Problem Gambling

The government will allocate 2.5% of gross gaming revenue to the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund, which was established as part of the sports betting bill. The funds will go to counseling and other support services for compulsive and problem gamblers, problem gambling treatment and prevention programs, and grants for compulsive gambler assistance organizations.

The bill also provides for a voluntary sports betting self exclusion program. Customers can place themselves on the list for two years, five years or a lifetime.

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