After early promise in 2020, momentum is beginning to build again rapidly for Virginia to put a definitive plan into action to begin sports wagering within the state, possibly before the end of the year. Virginia sports betting officially became legal in April 2020.
Wagering within the state will become available anywhere within its geolocation borders. For mobile bettors, wagering on smartphones will allow bettors to sign up and fund accounts through apps on their cell phones. Like most other state rules, you will not have to live in Virginia to bet on sports in the state. However, you will need to be physically located in the state to place a wager legally.
It is planned to begin online with moves toward establishing onsite locations managed through their flagship property, racetrack Colonial Downs.
Virginia regulators are currently drafting and updating rules and regulations that will govern how sportsbooks operate throughout the state. The state lottery, which will oversee VA sports betting, announced in May that mid-to-late December is the most optimistic launch date.
As mentioned, the architect leading the charge toward sports wagering will be the Virginia Lottery. Their spokesperson John Hagerty delivered the message: “Sports betting is coming to Virginia.”
The organization is charged with “refereeing” sports gambling in Virginia, following legislation upon its regulations approved on Tuesday. Included are multiple terms that seemingly open the door for small businesses to get a piece of what is considered a very lucrative pie.
It seemed that the opportunity would be welcomed for many sportsbook providers, both large and small. “The terms set are feasible for small businesses, they’re digestible,” said Handle 19 Sportsbook founder Shane August.
Comparative to other states, a relatively affordable $250,000 license fee upon approval and reasonable tax rates set Virginia’s rules apart from other jurisdictions. August often referred to Pennsylvania as a state whose inflated costs steered business toward big corporate interests.
Also included in the rules is language meant to increase consideration for minority-owned businesses. Wagering handle falls in that category.
“We’re thankful for that language that made it into the rules,” said August.
Applications can be submitted starting on October 15 with an eye toward sites operating by January of 2021 but again, possibly as early as December 2020.
The controversial part of Virginia’s ambitious rollout is the proposed amount of information they are planning to offer bettors. Their adopted name for it is the “Sports bettors Bill of Rights”.
One significant rule drawing attention would require sports betting platforms to provide players with information that can help them make “informed decisions about their gambling,” including odds of winning a bet and an explanation of how those odds were calculated, the handle (total amount wagered) and payout amounts.
This potential idea has been met with disdain by major US sportsbook market leaders DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel, saying that no other states have adopted this language within their regulations and posted this information in real-time.
FanDuel added that it offered 24 types of bets for a recent NBA Playoff game, with more than 300 potential outcomes and a nearly unlimited number of possible parlay wagers. Having the extra burden to calculate and present the numbers behind each bet in real-time, could create major logistical challenges in terms of both screen space and processing power.
The company wrote in its comments on Virginia’s draft regulations:
Sports betting apps are simply not built to provide and display this type of information. As such, this requirement would force a re-engineering of the products, to create a demonstrably worse user experience, and all to provide information which is immaterial to the calculation of the odds and/or payout a bettor will receive.
There are other rules adopted in this new Virginia legislation involving self-exclusion for problem wagering, advertising, and betting on the Olympics plus Virginia college teams that are being debated. Again, the major sportsbooks in operation in other US states, envision these rules view these new policies as bad for both bettors and for new business operations.
The overall headline clouded Virginia’s quick movement toward opening sports wagering within the state seems to be anointing the state’s Lottery Commission to be involved in operations. Thus far, based on initial results, has proven to be a poor choice in other states.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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