Latest Virginia Sports Gambling Bill Emphasizes Mobile Betting

A delegate from Virginia has pre-filed a sports gambling bill that will focus on mobile sports betting. This is the third such bill filed in Virginia, two of which were filed on the House side, and all three were filed by Democrats. Delegate Marcus Simon (Dem-District 53) pre-filed his bill, titled “Virginia Electronic Sports Betting Law,” on Tuesday. The 2019 session began on Wednesday.

Virginia Electronic Sports Betting Law (HB 2210)

Simon’s bill, HB 2210, is different from the other two bills filed in that it deals only with mobile betting instead of physical venues. If it passes, the Virginia Lottery Board would regulate all mobile sports gambling.

It lays out what kind of fees and taxes will be attached, where tax revenue will go to, where exactly players can place bets, how to register for a betting account, and how much a player can bet each month.

The bill calls for a $5,000 application fee, a $1,000 yearly renewal fee, and 10 percent tax on adjusted gross revenue. HB 2210 would only allow for betting on professional sports. Betting on collegiate sports is prohibited under this bill.

Any tax revenue generated by mobile betting would be allocated into two different streams: 97 percent would go to Virginia’s Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund, and the remaining three percent would go into the newly created Sports Betting Operations Fund. The Sports Betting Operations Fund would be used to pay for the costs to the state associated with regulating sports betting.

Internet and mobile sports betting would be legal all throughout the state, which is good because there are no casinos in Virginia. There is no discussion about physical locations within this bill, even though Virginia does have off-track betting parlors and live horse-racing venues. This is because Simon prefers to see people do their sports betting on their mobile devices.

Instead, as long as they can provide a verification form and a form of payment, they can set up an account. As for that account, a bettor will only be allowed to have one account and may only bet up to $1,000 each month unless granted an exemption.

Senator Chapman Peterson’s Bill (SB 1238)

On January 5th, Senator Chapman “Chap” Peterson (Dem-District 34) pre-filed a bill to support sports betting named “Virginia Sports Gaming Tuition Act.” Unlike Simon’s, his would allow wagering on sports at off-track betting sites, live horse-racing venues, and possibly other brick-and-mortar locations. The bill does not allow for Internet and mobile sports gambling, though.

Peterson’s bill would also forbid betting on college sports and would create the Virginia Sports Betting Department, which would regulate the activity.

Perhaps most notably, his bill would require that sports gambling be legalized on a local basis, and counties and even cities will be able to decide for their own whether to legalize it. The bill also permits for special elections to be called when a vote is required. According to the text of the bill, it says:

“A locality may authorize sports betting if a referendum approving the question is held.”

When speaking about his bill, Peterson said his sports gambling bill “will recognize the obvious” in that people are already betting on sports. His bill will just make it possible for bettors to place legal wagers rather than with illegal bookies.

As for revenue generated by sports betting, Peterson says any tax revenue should stay in the state. He would like it to eventually make community colleges free for students. SB 1238 would impose a 10 percent tax on each licensed vendor’s adjusted gross revenue.

The bill also creates the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund, which will receive 2.5 percent of the tax revenue.  This fund will offer counselling to people with gambling problems, start-up treatment and prevention programs for problem gambling, and offer grants to organizations that also help problem gamblers.

Fifty percent of the tax revenue money would go to the locality where the revenue was generated and another 45 percent would go to the Virginia Community College Education Fund, which will be used to offer tuition assistance to residents who are enrolled in community colleges. The remaining 2.5 percent would be allocated to the Sports Betting Operations Fund, which would be established under the bill. This would cover the costs associated with regulating sports betting in the state.

Delegate Mark D. Sickles’s Bill (HB 1638)

In November, Delegate Mark D. Sickles (Dem-District 43) filed a bill that also focuses on mobile and Internet sports betting. Sickles doesn’t want to put any money towards any sports betting infrastructure and doesn’t want casinos all over the place.

Under his bill, he’d allow the single race track, Colonial Downs, to get a license, but he’d like to see the remainder of all sports betting be done online, according to Sports Handle:

“We have one racetrack (Colonial Downs) in the state. They could get a license under my bill and they do have 10 or 11 off-track betting locations across the state, … but I’d like this to work on the iPhone.”

As for what the state would do with tax revenue, which would be set at 15 percent on adjusted gross revenue, Sickles has some very specific ideas:

“Our lottery in Virginia does about $2 billion of business a year, and (the state) gets $600 million in net revenue, that’s pretty good. (Sports betting) would not have that. but the money would go into research projects and an economic transformation in the state. We need to become a well-rounded economy.”

Will Sports Betting Become Legal in Virginia?

So the next question for Virginia is this: will lawmakers there really legalize sports betting this legislative session? According to Sickles, it might not happen.

“There is a chance, even though there is widespread support for this that the Speaker (Williams James Howell) may call for a one-year moratorium on sports betting.”

There are a few reasons why the Speaker may decide to delay a vote on sports betting. First off, there are two legislators in Bristol who want to build a casino, which would be the first in the state. Furthermore, members of the Pamunkey tribe want to open a casino later this year.

It’s very possible that the state legislature will want to deal with both of those issues before taking on sports gambling. The tribe and state will have to work out a gaming pact before the tribe could open a casino.

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Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site.

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