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Gambling Proposals Approved in Virginia

Legislation takes another step forward following amendments


Virginia’s casino and sports betting proposals look set to become law after some last-minute amendments by the governor were approved by both chambers of the state legislature.

The Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates approved multiple amendments to the state’s casino and sports betting legislation, which will allow mobile sports betting and the construction of up to five casinos, none of which is presently legal in the state.

Governor Ralph Northam campaigned on a platform that included more money for educational institutes and made it known he would be unwilling to sign off on the bills if the issue was not included in them.

Amendments to the original legislation included raising gambling license fees; ensuring revenue from gambling tax is allocated to education funding; and the inclusion of the state’s two NASCAR race tracks in the list of operations allowed to partner with bookmakers on a mobile sportsbook offering.

Two-thirds of the casino tax revenue would go toward building new schools in the state.

Casinos will pay18% on their first $200 million of annual gaming revenue, rising to 23% on revenue between $200 million and $400 million, and 30% on revenue over $400 million. Sports betting revenue would be taxed at 15%.

If Northam signs the revised legislation into law as expected, residents of the five cities eligible to host casinos will be asked to vote for or against in this November’s election ballot.

Deals have already been struck with casino operators in three of these cities, while the other two are understood to be still considering their options.

Although Virginia already has a state lottery, it is one of only a handful of US states yet to embrace casino gambling.

Extra time needed as debate continued

HB 896 passed in the House by a 59-35 vote and passed 29-10 in the Senate, although extra time had to be allocated as lawmakers continued to debate the issues.

The new law will give the Virginia lottery system regulatory authority, and it will have until September 15 to set up rules.

The bill also allows for statewide mobile sports betting, meaning that mobile sportsbooks such as FanDual and DraftKings would be able to offer sports betting without the need for a physical location within the state. It also set a tax rate of 15% on all gross revenue from the casinos.

Sticking points

Some sticking points for lawmakers were eventually resolved, including a prohibition against betting on Virginia collegiate sports as well as a ban on prop bets on individual collegiate athletes.

Although the original Senate bill allowed for wagers on collegiate sports, that was removed at the last moment.

The law also allowed the NFL’s Washington Redskins to run their own gambling operation both at the stadium and through an online partnership with FanDuel. Although this was something of an obstacle through much of the debate it was approved in the final draft.

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.

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