Virginia sports betting bill clears Senate

6 February 2019

The Virginia Senate has passed a bill that could lead to the legalisation of sports betting and also permit land-based casinos to open for the first time in the state.

SB 1126, introduced by Democrat Senator Louise Lucas, has already cleared the Senate Committee on General Laws and has now passed the Senate by a vote of 28-12.

Following this approval, the bill will head to the House today (February 6) for a first reading before being referred to the Committee on Rules for further discussion.

SB 1126 set out plans to legalise casino gaming in the state, with casinos to be restricted to cities that have an unemployment rate of at least 4%, a poverty rate of 20%, and which had experienced a population decline of at least 7% between 1990 and 2016.

Each city would be able to issue one casino licence, with a tribal casino permitted in cities with a population of at least 200,000, and in which 24% of all real estate are exempt from local property taxes. In order to open a casino, each local authority would need to secure approval from residents via a local referendum.

The licensed casinos would be able to offer table, dice and slot games, as well as sports betting. However, there are now measures in the bill that would allow for online gaming or wagering.

The Virginia Lottery Board would be responsible for regulating the market.

Casino venues would pay a tax of 10% of gross revenue, with takings divided between a number of causes. These would include the State General Fund and new entities the Virginia Public School Construction Grants Program and Fund and the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund, which would be established under the bill.

Some tax revenue would also go to the State Local Casino Gaming Proceeds Fund, which will be established through the act to ensure local authorities benefit from the casinos. The cities in which venues are based will also receive a share.

SB 1126 is one of seven sports betting bills that have been put forward in Virginia in the 2019 legislative session. Last week, Senator Chapman Peterson introduced SB 1238 while Senator Frank Wagner submitted SB 1256.

SB 1238 calls for the establishment of the Virginia Sports Betting Department and to authorise the new organisation to regulate land-based sports betting only.

Meanwhile, SB 1356 also calls for the legalisation of sports betting, with plans to rename the Virginia Lottery Board as the Virginia Lottery and Sports Wagering Commission and allow it to establish a digital platform for wagering.

Image: Famartin