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Virginia sports betting bills head to Governor


Bills that would legalise certain forms of sports betting in Virginia have moved forward to Governor Ralph Northam for signature, after securing approval in the state’s House of Representatives and Senate.

House Bill 896, which sets out plans to legalise online and mobile sports betting, was passed by the House yesterday (March 8) by a vote of 59-35, after clearing those Senate on March 7 by a vote of 33-5.

The House yesterday also voted 60-35 in favour of HB 4, which would allow five brick-and-mortar casinos to open in Virginia, with each of these sites permitted to operate a land-based sportsbook facility.

Virginia’s 2020 legislative session had been due to conclude on March 7, but was allowed to run into overtime so that both bills could advance.

Both bills will now be sent forward Governor Northam for signature, and each be ratified, they would come into law later this year.

HB 896 states that market regulations must be finalized by September 15, with licences to be awarded 60 days after these rules have been agreed.

The Virginia Lottery would be responsible for regulating the vertical, as well as awarding licences. These would be limited to between four and 12 licences, each costing $250,000.

HB 896 would impose a tax of 15% on a permit holder’s adjusted gross revenue. This figure has come down from the 20% included when the bill was first filed.

Consumers would be able to bet on professional sports, but the bill sets out that wagering would not be permitted on any college sports. In addition, only official league data would be used for in-play betting.

The bill directs the Lottery to establish a voluntary exclusion programme, which would allow individuals to request that they be excluded from engaging in betting activity.

HB 896 saw off competition from another betting bill, SB384, which was rejected by the Senate last month, having previously been cleared by the Senate and House. The House substitute bill for SB 384, which did allow betting on college sports, was defeated by 36-3.

The bill had moved to a conference committee following changes in the Senate, which ultimately saw betting on Virginia-based college teams banned. The House version had originally banned all collegiate betting, only for the Senate to look to have this reintroduced, before a compromise was reached.

Meanwhile, HB 4 would legalise five casinos in Virginia, with each permitted to open its own sportsbook. Each casino would also be able to secure an online license, though these would not count towards the maximum number of permits outlined in HB 896.

Operators would need to pay a fee of $15m once they have been awarded one of the new land-based licences.

In terms of tax, this would be based on adjusted gross receipts of each operator. On the first $200m, operators would be taxed at a rate of 18%, whole for those that exceed $200m but not $400m, that rate would be set at 23%.

Operators with adjusted gross receipts that exceed $400m, a rate of 30% would be applicable. All tax revenues collected shall go into to the Gaming Proceeds Fund.