Virginia is for lovers….of sports betting. The Virginia General Assembly came to an agreement in March 2020 that sent a bill to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk to officially begin legalized sports betting in the state of Virginia.
While the biggest hurdle has been cleared, Virginia still has a long way to go in terms of developing infrastructure for betting. For starters, there are no land-based casinos in Virginia. In fact, sports betting is part of a much broader expansion of gaming in the state. Five casinos have been proposed, all of which would include sportsbooks, and additional non-gaming venues are going to be granted licenses for sports betting.
There will be a lot of retail betting options available once all of that comes to fruition, but the bill in Virginia also allows for mobile and online wagering as well. The Virginia Lottery Commission will oversee sports betting and can allow for anywhere from six to 10 licenses to different operators, so Virginia will be a highly competitive market. The state’s only horse track, Colonial Downs, would also have the chance to offer sports betting.
It remains to be seen which operators will set up shop with brick-and-mortar facilities, but Hard Rock is a name that has been floated about already. The Pamunkey Indian tribe is also looking at opening casinos in Richmond and Norfolk. It will be interesting to see which operators the tribes side with if they are able to get their operations up and running.
The voters in Bristol, Danville, Richmond, Norfolk, and Portsmouth have the opportunity to vote in November on the casino measures. Sports betting, however, could start up independent of the voters as long as Northam signs the legislation into law, which he is expected to do. Now that Washington D.C. has adopted legal sports betting and Maryland’s chances for sports betting are going to a general vote in November, Virginia moved rather quickly and even got in just under the wire prior to a legislative recess with sports betting.
We certainly don’t want to throw cold water on the celebration here, but this is going to take an extended period of time in Virginia. Assuming the voters in those five cities approve casinos, we are talking about a large-scale expansion of gambling that takes time to set up. Sports betting will be ready before construction is complete on those brick-and-mortar facilities, so that is a positive and the main focus for us, but governing bodies need to be put in place, operators need to come in and get started, and the state will have to survey the different technological partners and supporting companies for this brand new operation.
In other words, we may be lucky to see sports betting show up by the upcoming college football and NFL seasons, but we will see it. It just might be 2021.
Speaking of college football, one of the unfortunate elements of the Virginia sports betting bill is that betting on Virginia college teams is prohibited. That means no betting on the Virginia Cavaliers or Virginia Tech Hokies in ACC play or in the NCAA Tournament. While that is a bummer, plenty of betting options are still going to be available in the state and there will be no shortage of ways to bet between the retail sportsbooks in the gaming facilities and with full online and mobile betting.
How Do I Bet on Sports in Virginia?
Soon, you will be able to do so from the comforts of home or from a local casino. For now, the only options are to leave the state to get your bets in. Washington D.C. has approved sports betting and will be an option once all of the infrastructure is set up. Maryland will soon be an option as well. Tennessee also has online and mobile wagering plans to launch in Q2 or Q3 of 2020.
Fortunately, there are other options as of April 2020. West Virginia has retail and mobile sports betting with several operators, including FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetAmerica. Delaware is another reasonably close state that takes bets. Those in northern Virginia can also take a drive up into Pennsylvania, where there are a bunch of operators, including the three previously mentioned plus SugarHouse, Parx, BetRivers, and Fox Bet.
Retail sports betting in North Carolina is available in the Smoky Mountain region through two Harrah’s casinos operating with Caesars sportsbooks.
There are a lot of options, which is a big reason why Virginia made it a priority to expand gambling, particularly on the sports betting side of things. You’ll have to be patient if you live in Virginia, but sports betting will be coming in either late 2020 or early 2021.