Mobile sports betting will be launching in Virginia by January 2021 at the earliest.
Since legislation was passed by the Virginia General Assembly and became effective July 1st, the Virginia lottery, who has been tasked with regulation and oversight, has been working to turn legal mobile sports betting for Virginians into a reality.
This is where the months-long implementation process currently stands.
On July 15th the Virginia lottery released the first set of sports betting regulations for stakeholders and the public to view and submit any comments or concerns they might have. Last Monday, the lottery released the second and final round of regulations for comment.
The first regulations focused on licensing and consumer protection, while the latest detailed operations and internal controls. The comment forums for both sets of regulations end on Sept. 9th, according to a state government webpage.
The lottery will then view and possibly implement any suggestions or necessary changes to the regulations. The lottery board must vote yes or no to approve the sports betting regulations for submission to the Virginia Register for publication by the fixed date of Sept. 15th, executive director of the Virginia lottery Kevin Hall said in an interview with The Virginia Star.
Once the Virginia Register publishes the sports betting regulations, the lottery can begin accepting applications for licenses from operators, according to Hall.
“I would anticipate that we would be in a position by October 15th to begin accepting applications,” Hall said.
As outlined in the legislation, the lottery has a fixed 90-day window to evaluate the submitted applications from operators.
“That [evaluation] includes reviewing their operational plans, reviewing if they are operating in other jurisdiction [and] checking with their compliance there,” Hall said. “It includes criminal and credit checks of the principal owners of the companies, much like you’d do with a casino. And then there are some lesser licensing components.”
Hall also mentioned that things like job creation in Virginia and credible revenue estimates will be evaluated.
If the Oct. 15th date for the start of applications being accepted is accurate, then the 90-day evaluation window means that the first licenses would be issued by January 2021 at the earliest, Hall said.
The lottery can only issue up to 12 and no less than four mobile sports betting permits, State Delegate Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) said in an interview with The Star.
Del. Sickles was chief patron for one of the bills on Virginia sports betting in the General Assembly.
Many of the major companies are going to be vying for a permit to operate in Virginia. FanDuel, DraftKings, Penn National Gaming, MGM, Caesars and any other operators with mobile apps should be submitting applications when allowed, a lobbyist who worked closely with legislators and sports betting operators told The Star.
If issued permits by the lottery, those companies will then need get their apps live and operational for Virginia, which would not be a lengthy or complicated process as most already have mobile sports betting apps in other states, the lobbyist said.
Operators must apply for a three-year permit and pay a nonrefundable application fee of $250,000 as well as another $250,000 if the application is approved. Tax on the permitted operators is set at 15 percent of adjusted gross revenue, according to the legislation.
“The estimate by professionals [is] somewhere between 40 to 50 million [in Virginia tax revenue] a year,” Del. Sickles said. “Its money that was just lying on the table, so that’s why I wanted to make sure we could pass a bill. Lots of people play DraftKings and FanDuel already, we might as well get our share out it and avoid people living on all of the [Virginia] borders from going into other states [to bet].”
Not all language and requirements in the legislation is viewed by all parties as good or adequate, specifically the stipulation that prohibits any betting on Virginia college sports and all proposition bets on college sports.
“Having [sports betting] conducted in a regulated market is beneficial to Virginia colleges because they would have insight into the betting activity that is currently happening illegally online, on offshore illegal books,” a sports betting industry expert said in a phone interview with The Star.
Once the sports betting operators’ apps are live, they will be able to see how many people leave Virginia to go to Washington D.C. or Maryland to place bets on Virginia college sports, the lobbyist said.
It was the Virginia colleges themselves that asked to be excluded in the legislation, a practice not uncommon in other states, according to Del. Sickles.
Once operators receive permits and launch their apps, Virginians will be able to bet on all types of professional sports and the outcomes of games featuring non-Virginia college sports.
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].