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Place Virginia at the front of the line wanting to be legislative there in time, perhaps even a few weeks earlier in January according to some sources.
The Virginia Lottery is expected to give the go-ahead sign early next month to what will likely be more than a dozen betting sites prepared to accept wagers from all within the Old Dominion. Officials predict Virginians will respond by wagering as much as $400 million in 2021 and increasing that total in subsequent years.
Virginia had been somewhat of a late-arriving holdout. The impetus for the change came recently after Virginia legislators approved sports gaming, erasing that trend. Sports wagering will precede the arrival of casinos in four Virginia cities that had their construction pre-approved in referendums in November but may not be opened until at least 2022 or likely later.
Sports betting, however, has arrived. Virginia Lottery Director Kevin Hall said the state has received twenty-five applications from operating forces within the industry. State law requires the Virginia Lottery to select a minimum of four and a maximum of twelve providers.
In reviewing the scenario, Hall said, he expects that Virginia will approve more than twelve applications, due to state law grants preference to professional sports organizations with a home in Virginia. Therefore, as an example, any applications submitted by the NFL Washington Football Team, the DC United soccer franchise and NASCAR could be approved more than the twelve-vendor cap.
There will be no retail/onsite wagering locations as only online options are permitted under state law. Wagering is barred on games involving Virginia colleges. Bets on the Olympics will not be allowed, to somewhat disappointment of gaming sites that tried to convince state regulators it should be permitted.
When Virginia is up and running, they will be joining 19 other US states that now have legalized sports wagering, according to the American Gaming Association. That number is expected to increase during 2021 with as many as four to six other states seriously considering legislation.
Virginia will be joining Tennessee at present as the only US states solely adopting online gaming only approach toward sports wagering. All US states have varied rates for taxation and licensing. Unlike Tennessee’s higher tax rate of 20% and license fees of $750,000, the state has plans to tax sports wagering at a more moderate 15%, ranking them roughly in the middle of US states offering sports betting to operators.
Jessica Feil, a lobbyist with the gaming association, said the industry believes a tax rate in the low teens is ideal. While Virginia has more vendors interested in providing gaming than it can approve, Fell said a higher tax rate might scare off potential operators, especially in a newer, undeveloped market like Virginia.
Hall mentioned estimates show that the state will receive approximate proceeds of $4 to $5 million in the first year, but that figure will grow in subsequent years as the market establishes itself to as much as $55 million a year. Lottery proceeds in Virginia will be targeted toward education with tax revenue from sports gambling going toward the state’s general fund.
Also included among the Virginia laws will be a sports bettors’ “bill of rights” designed to protect the consumer Those rules were revised after gaming companies complained. The original rules for example, required companies to provide the odds of a particular wager and the specific information used by that company to obtain those odds. Companies complained that the process for setting odds is proprietary, therefore impossible to know the exact true odds of who would win any specific game or any specific wager.
State Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William, sponsoring the legislation establishing the sports betting program, said he is satisfied that the lottery regulations match legislators’ intent to provide a level of transparency for bettors. He also complimented the Virginia Lottery for getting the program to market quickly in a state that has no history of casino-style betting.
According to Hall, the VA Lottery expects to grant final approval sometime in January. At that time, operators and companies would be free to accept wagers. With the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl approaching, the state will make every effort to maximize the opportunity.
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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