US Gambling Legislation Updates: Virginia and Massachusetts

  • Virginia has been using “emergency” casino regulations since February
  • The Virginia Lottery Board passed permanent regulations, sending them to the executive branch
  • The Massachusetts House of Representatives read a sports betting bill for the third time
  • Massachusetts’ three casinos would each get three online betting skins
American flag lapel pin
The Virginia Lottery Board approved permanent casino regulations on Wednedsay, while on Thursday, the Massachusetts House read a sports betting bill for the third time. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Slow and steady

Update July 22, 2021 – 6:30pm ET: The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed H.3977 by a 156 to 3 vote.

The east coast of the United States looks to be on the verge of gambling expansion once again, as both Virginia and Massachusetts inched closer to passing new regulations.

Virginia sportsbooks have been raking it in since they were able to launch in January of this year, but there are still no casinos in the state, even though four of five possible cities have approved them. This week, though, the Virginia Lottery Board green-lit permanent casino regulations, allowing them to move to the executive branch for review.

Up in Massachusetts, the House of Representatives read a bill to legalize and regulate sports betting for the third and final time.

Laying the groundwork for Virginia casinos

In February, the Virginia Lottery Board approved emergency casino regulations in order to speed up the state’s gambling expansion plans. On Wednesday, the board met and gave the thumbs-up to proposed permanent regulations. They now head to the executive branch of the state’s government, including Governor Ralph Northam.

still a long way to go before the regulations are finalized

There is still a long way to go before the regulations are finalized, with another trip to the Lottery Board and then more executive branch reviews. A new governor will be in place by the time everything goes final, which is expected to be in May 2022.

In November 2020, voters in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth approved the construction of a casino in each of their cities. Richmond residents will have their chance this November to vote for a casino plan by Urban One, which was approved by the City Council in June.

There aren’t any major changes to the casino regulations; it is mostly wording, clarifications, definitions, and just some fine tuning. As the lottery’s deputy general counsel Bob Fontaine told the Bristol Herald Courier: “Some of these things are, honestly, a reflection of having more time to do a more complete job and responding to the concerns raised during the process. I think it’s just a more clear document.”

Massachusetts sports betting coming into focus

In Massachusetts, the House of Representatives held a third reading on Thursday for H.3977, an act that would legalize and regulate sports betting. The House Committee on Ways and Means approved the bill, advancing it to the House floor, just this past weekend.

Members of the House spoke in support of the bill, arguing that state residents are already betting on sports, but either crossing state lines to do so elsewhere, using illegal apps from offshore companies, or placing wagers with a bookie. Legalizing the activity, they say, will both provide consumer protections and keep money in-state.

The bill sets a sports betting revenue tax rate of 12.5% for retail sportsbooks and 15% for online books. The reason for the difference is to make up for extra overhead brick-and-mortar venues have and to help them draw more people to their locations, which can generate more money from other gambling, entertainment, dining activities.

The state’s three casinos would each get three online sports betting skins, while horse racetracks and off-track betting locations would get one skin each.