Virginia Set to Legalize Sports Betting in 2019

Virginia appears to be on the road to legalizing sports betting, following in the wake of its neighbors in West Virginia, which launched its own sportsbooks in September.

Delegate Marcus Simon, a lawmaker in the state of Virginia, is working on draft legislation that will see sports betting become legal in there. The motion is set to be introduced at the next session of the General Assembly, in January 2019.

Talking to Fox 5 about this project, Simon said: “I think there will be some appetite for this. I think there is certainly a revenue opportunity in Virginia. We already see a lot of our residents’ dollars go across the river to the MGM casino, and we lose out on a lot of opportunities to capture some of that revenue.”

Is This Realistic?

Virginia has always had a strict stance on gambling. No casinos are allowed in the state, but certain people believe that sports betting would be a bit more welcome.

Horse racing and betting are popular pursuits, and this could be the route by which sports betting is implemented, whether it is on-track or at off-track facilities. Virginia could, of course, also look at the introduction of online sports betting.

To date, five states have opened sportsbooks following the Supreme Court’s decision to end the federal ban on it in May. They are New Jersey, West Virginia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Delaware.

Others states are close to opening sportsbooks, most notably Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Others have sports betting bills at an advanced stage, such as Washington DC.

It is clear that most states see the tremendous benefits associated with legalization. The question is how they can push it through, especially in traditionally conservative states such as Virginia. The pros certainly outweigh the cons in this case, with substantial revenue going to the state in the form of taxes.

What Happens Next?

If Simon’s bill is passed in Virginia, it would see sports betting becoming legal by July of 2019. It is possible it could take a further year to be implemented; the General Assembly could commission a study to see what sort of potential effects the introduction of sports betting would have on the region.

Such a study would look at positive aspects such as employment figures and tax revenues, as well as the downsides such as increases in crime and problem gambling. This has commonly been seen in states that are contemplating opening up casinos in their jurisdiction. However, Simon is committed to at least getting the bill started on its way.

A companion bill for this issue is also in the works, which would effectively be a bill of rights for sports bettors and would put in place a number of protections for consumers. This will add confidence to those operators that are providing sports betting services and ensure that a fair game is offered.

Governor of VirginiaRalph Northam has taken a neutral stance on legalizing sports betting. His spokesperson remarked: “Governor Northam believes any future proposal to expand sports gaming here in Virginia should be considered with the input of the General Assembly and the communities that will be impacted in order to fully assess the benefits and potential consequences for existing industries and businesses.”

It will be reassuring that a flat-out refusal to discuss this issue was not provided. It appears that there is a strong possibility that Virginia will have legalized sports betting in the next year or two.

Tide Turning in Virginia?

While Virginia has been hesitant to embrace gambling over the years, the tide appears to be turning. In addition to the push for legalized sports betting, there are now calls for the approval of a resort casino in the state.

This would be located in Bristol and the development would cost about $150m. Bristol is close to the border with Tennessee, so it is ideally located to attract players from both states. The community is supporting this motion.

If the resort casino is approved, it will create a lot of jobs in addition to money flowing into the local economy. The state government would also receive tax revenues.

The project is being headed by two high-profile businessmen in the state, Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy. They are planning to pay for the entire project out of their own pockets.

The site for the planned casino resort is the Bristol Mall, which is currently vacant since it was closed in 2017. The plan is for a 25,000 sq ft area for sports betting, a hotel with 1,000 rooms and entertainment complexes.

The number of new jobs being created in the local area is estimated to be 2,000. However, the Virginia General Assembly would have to approve this before it goes ahead.