With the Virginia General Assembly so close to adjourning for the year, a sports betting bill was passed just in the nick of time. It will now be sent to Gov. Ralph Northam, who is expected to sign it, enacting the measure into law, setting the Washington Redskins up for a move.
Several state representatives felt confident heading into the March 6 session that HB 896 would pass, enabling five casinos to be opened in the state, and for sports betting to be legalized in Virginia.
HB 896 passed in the House by a 59-35 vote and passed 29-10 in the Senate. However, extra time had to be allocated, as lawmakers continued to debate both the House and Senate (SB 384) bills through March 8.
The new law tasks the Virginia lottery system with regulatory authority and gives them until September 15 to set up rules. “The [Lottery] Director may issue from four to twelve [betting] permits at one time and is directed to issue an amount of permits that would maximize tax revenue collected pursuant to the bill.”
The bill also allows for statewide mobile sports betting. This means that mobile sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings would be able to offer sports betting without having a physical location within the state. It also set a tax rate of 15% on all gross revenue from the casinos.
A few issues appeared to be sticking points for lawmakers. Each of these was resolved, starting with a prohibition against betting on Virginia collegiate sports as well as a ban on prop bets on individual collegiate athletes. The original Senate bill allowed for wagers on collegiate sports, but that was removed at the last moment.
In addition, the law allowed the NFL’s Washington Redskins to run their own legal gambling operation both at the stadium as well as through an online partnership that they have established with FanDuel. This was a sticking point through much of the debate but was finally approved in the final draft.
The measure not only gives the Redskins this approval but will likely pave the way for a new stadium for the team. Washington owner Dan Snyder has already selected land in Virginia that allows easy access into the Washington D.C. area. Now that Virginia has approved the new law, it removes any obstacle the team would have faced to opening their own gambling operation.
Once the governor signs the bill, Virginia will join West Virginia and D.C. in allowing wagering on sporting events. Maryland is also expected to pass a sports betting bill.