Sportsbooks recently opened in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island land-based casinos, and now the possibility of making Virginia sports betting legal in 2019 is inching toward reality. House Bill 1638 has been pre-filed with the Virginia General Assembly by Delegate Mark Sickles on November 20, as the bill looks to repeal Virginia's prohibition of sports betting and online sportsbooks.
While many states that have legalized or are currently looking to legalize sports betting are concentrating on land-based casinos and in-person sportsbooks, there are no casinos to run VA sports betting. Diving deep into the house bill shows that they're looking more toward online sports betting under the umbrella of the Virginia Lottery, spotlighting websites, apps or other online platforms for sports bettors to utilize. Legislators think these moves will create more jobs and allow state university research projects to be funded by the income brought in from sports betting.
There are some proposed limits to VA sports-betting bill, beyond a minimum age of 21 to place bets within the state. Any sporting event, college or professional, that would involve any team from Virginia cannot be bet on. Also, any member of a team, including employees, trainers, and referees are excluded from betting on games and events in Virginia.
The bill covers the awarding of up to five sports betting licenses, which would cost $250,000 initially and $200,000 to renew after three years. A revenue tax percentage of 15 percent would be imposed, as 2.5 percent of that would go to the state lottery as an administration fee.
A study by Oxford Economics estimates a total of $5.2 billion of projected wagers made, bringing in $380 million of annual net revenue. This means more than $50 million in taxes back to Virginia for the state university research projects. However, it's not the only plan that may hit the floor when bills are reviewed officially in January. Democratic Senator Chap Petersen has verbally proposed a plan similar to Mr. Sickles' bill. However, he is looking to open sports betting to more than just online sportsbooks and would like the tax revenue to be allocated to aid state community colleges.
As more plans become bills and are submitted for review, the message is clear: the push to bet on sports legally in Virginia is pushing closer to reality in 2019.