The state of Virginia has been moving quickly toward legal sports betting but unfortunately for residents, it doesn’t mean that they will be able to wager on their favorite team just yet. Lawmakers voted back in April to welcome legalized sports betting in the state and July 1 signaled the next step in its realization. July 1 represented an official handing-off of the platform to the Virginia Lottery which will now complete the long road toward legalization. It has already been working on a set of rules and regulations.
The Lottery will be in charge of the public-comment phase which is set to begin July 15 and expire September 15, will be in charge of lining up providers best suited for the state and will be tabbed with making legal sports betting a reality, despite a tight timeline that has been given to launch. As of now, December looks like the absolute earliest time for legal sports betting to go live in the state and even that date may be a little too optimistic for something that has a ton of regulatory hurdles to clear before all is said and done.
What about that tight timeline?
Virginia is being aggressive with its launch plans for its legal sports betting industry. Eight months from legislation to live seems like a tough ask, although Indiana and Iowa have been able to do so thus far – both have done so within four months. The difference in those states is the presence of a casino control commission to regulate their industry – something that Virginia doesn’t have.
The casino control commissions in Indiana and Iowa were already established. They ran existing casinos in the state prior to legal sports betting legislation and had an infrastructure already in place before sports betting came along. Sports betting was simply added to their portfolios.
Virginia finds itself in the unique position of having zero casinos, meaning that the Lottery will be starting from scratch and building a platform from the foundation on up.
Examples of potential hiccups for a quick launch
An example of a legal sports betting state that legislated without casinos is Tennessee. They voted to legalize July 1, 2019, and they still haven’t been able to officially launch, thanks in part to the lack of gambling infrastructure in the state. Building a platform from scratch is more difficult that Tennessee imagined leading to red tape and the ultimate bogging down of the legalization process. Virginia hopes to avoid a similar fate but with no current infrastructure in place, could run into similar problems fulfilling their aggressive timeline.
States that have tasked Lotteries to run their legal sports betting platforms have also run into problems, making Virginia’s hopeful launch timeline a bit of question mark. Washington DC, which is in a similar position to DC and is in close proximity, both geographically and in the way they propose to roll out their platform, took more than a year to launch, mostly because of issues surrounding the Lottery. Commercial operators in Washington, DC still haven’t gone live because of the shortcomings of the Lottery-model.
Retail could be a key
As of now, the Virginia sports betting model seems to focus mostly on mobile betting, although the new law does make provisions for physical sportsbooks and casinos to be built in Virginia. A maximum of five brick-and-mortar facilities could be open in the state. Those physical casinos, although seemingly a small part of the revenue-generation, could be the key for the state going forward.
Not only is the ability to place bets at a brick-and-mortar facility important for the state’s horse racing track Colonial Downs, which could and would be more than open to hosting their own sportsbooks but it is crucial for the state to become home of the Washington Redskins – a team that is presently scouting new locations for a new stadium in the area. Luring the Skins is a top priority for the state, meaning that any gambling provisions will have to keep the NFL team in the back of its mind.
On the line
Like most states that have either opened their own legal sports betting platforms, jobs and tax revenues have been a big driving force toward legalization in Virginia. Already the state has accepted a bid from Caesars to build a casino in the city of Danville. That structure alone has a price tag of $400 million, will create up to 1300 jobs and generate an estimated $30 million in annual revenue to the Danville region.
On the line in Virginia is a legal sports betting platform that will create jobs and revenue for state and local coffers as the coronavirus bills add up. Also, on the line is the beloved Washington Redskins who have been not-so-quietly looking for a new home.
As it stands, Virginia bettors will likely miss out on betting on the upcoming NFL and college football season but the optimistic timeline for opening would see Virginias able to wager on the 2021 Super Bowl. Stay tuned!