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Well, bless your heart if you think you can hijack Virginia’s good name for your sports betting marketing purposes, especially with lawmakers like state Senator Thomas Norment on duty, his Senate Bill 96 (SB 96) designed to prevent sportsbooks from using his state’s name in their ads.
It’s no joke – SB 96 was introduced to the Senate after enough sportsbooks began to make a play on Old Dominion’s famous (and trademarked) motto, which is “Virginia is for Lovers,” a saying that is easy to play off of as has been done with “Virginia is for Bettors.”
Not if SB 96 becomes law, and it is one step closer to achieving that goal after having passed through the state Senate by a unanimous vote of 13-0 with six Democrats and seven Republicans agreeing that abusing that phrase should come with a cost, in this case a civil penalty.
SB 96: Prohibits sports betting and casino gaming operators and their affiliates from using the name of Virginia or the Commonwealth in an advertisement in association with their products or services.
In other words, should SB 96 be signed into law, it will cost you if you’re caught using that slogan and its offshoots to your marketing advantage, up to $50,000 in fact, a big enough financial hit to discourage most sportsbooks from even trying.
It almost seems personal to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Thomas ‘Tommy’ Normant.
The minority leader of the Virginia Senate, Tommy Normant, is a Virginian through and through, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute who received his J.D. degree from William and Mary School of Law.
Normant has taken offense to the way these sportsbooks have attempted to hijack Virginia’s famous motto, saying in a recent meeting:
We’ve spent a lifetime trying to market ‘Virginia is for Lovers. I just felt it was trespassing on it.
To outsiders, it might seem relatively petty to protect a state slogan with actual legislation, but it is a serious matter to these Virginia lawmakers who voted to allow a legal sports betting market in their state, one that launched back in January 2021 with 11 sportsbook apps and more soon on the way.
As for SB 96, it still has a few hurdles to leap before it becomes a law.
Now that SB 96 has received unanimous approval by the state Senate, it will go to the Virginia House of Delegates where it will endure another round of hearty debates and maybe even some re-writes and other tweaks before it’s put up for a vote there.
Should it pass the House of Delegates, SB 96 would then be placed on Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk, and it will be up to him to sign it into law, and chances are he will given the serious nature of this issue.
Virginia may be for lovers, but the battle for its slogans is being fought by lawyers, and you can chuckle about it until the cows come home, but chances are SB 96 will become the law, so check back for the latest news and updates on this ongoing story.
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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