Virginia Looks to Keep Gambling Revenue with Three Sports Betting Bills

Three Virginia lawmakers to introduce sports betting bills early into the upcoming 45-day legislative session

The mid-May strikedown of the long-standing federal ban on sports betting brought the practice to seven states. It now seems that more states and jurisdictions are ready to embrace the revenue potential the activity has and legalize it on their territories.

Virginia lawmakers have made it clear that the matter will be discussed in the General Assembly next year and first steps have been made down the road to the introduction of legislative efforts concerned with sports gambling.

Three state legislators have begun work on three separate sports betting bills and plan to introduce them during the new legislative session, which is set to start in January and to run for 45 days. Sen. Chap Petersen, Del. Mark Sickles, and Del. Marcus Simon are all looking to help Virginia board the sports betting bandwagon.

Sen. Petersen has told local media that while the idea of sports gambling in the state is still too young and requires many details to be worked out, “the concept itself is going to flow through.”

Gambling in Virginia is illegal and state lawmakers have historically rejected efforts towards the legalization of one form of gambling or another. However, with neighboring Maryland being home to casinos and West Virginia now offering sports betting, Virginia gamblers are traveling north to spend cash. The three lawmakers promoting the legalization of sports betting believe that keeping gambling revenue in the state could convince their colleagues in the General Assembly to relax Virginia’s stance toward gambling.

First signals that there has been some softening of lawmakers’ gambling opinions appeared earlier this year, when the state Legislature allowed the addition of historical betting on horse races at the state racetracks.

Key Issues in the Legalization of Sports Betting in Virginia

It has become known that the three sports betting bills will differ in their proposed frameworks for the legalization of the practice. One of the main issues that may arise during sports gambling discussions in the General Assembly is whether wagering on collegiate sports should be allowed on the state’s territory.

All three bills contain limitations on collegiate betting. Under Sen. Petersen’s bill, almost all collegiate betting would be banned in Virginia, while Del. Sickles has revealed that his bill would ban wagering on Virginia-based colleges and universities.

The regulatory body that will oversee sports gambling when legal is also expected to arise as an issue over the course of future discussions. The three proposals differ on whether the practice should be regulated by the state’s existing lottery or by another entity.

While it seems that discussions on sports betting will almost certainly start next year, the actual launch of legal wagering in the state might not happen in 2019. Del. Simon suggested that ironing out all the details and coming out with a uniform solution of how the practice should be conducted in Virginia might prove complicated enough that the Legislature appoints a special committee to study the matter, review the available legislative proposals, and come back in the 2020 session.

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