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Virginia lawmakers include recommended Governor amendments in sports betting bill

Legislators in Virginia have included recommended amendments from Governor Ralph Northam, meaning that sports betting looks set to come into law. 

Northam requested changes to House Bill 896, which had been approved by Senators in March. 

Should it be passed, players in the state will be permitted to wager on sports via both online and mobile. 

Northam’s requests for sports betting legislation

The Governor wanted legislation to allow for an operator to offer the vertical “under a name other than its own”. Now this has been added, third-party skins will become possible. 

Sports betting license fees have also been amended to fit Northam’s requests. Rather than the original price of $250,000, this will be lowered to $50,000. That fee will be applicable to each principal of an applicant – which is any individual owning 5% or more of a business, or controlling 5% or more of its shares. 

In addition to the above, the Virginia Lottery will now have 90 days to make a decision on each application. The original timescale was 60 days. 

NASCAR tracks will also be able to offer sports betting products on their premises. 

These changes were voted 64-30 in favor by the House. Meanwhile, the Senate gave them the thumbs up with a 27-13 outcome. 

Other practicalities of sports betting in Virginia 

Licenses will be made available for 12 online operators, in addition to five casinos. 

Due to the included mobile betting capabilities, sportsbooks in Virginia will still be allowed to operate here – as long as they have a license – even if they don’t have a physical presence.

Operators will be taxed at 15% of their gross gaming revenue (GGR), which is lower than the bill’s initially-proposed 20% rate. 

To renew licenses operators will have to pay between $200,000 and $250,000. Permits will run for three years once awarded. 

The Washington Redskins, who have been considering moving to the state, shall also be permitted to offer sports betting at its stadium if it chooses to come here. This would be an addition to the licenses that are available to other operators. 

The Redskins would also be able to offer online wagering, which would likely be through the digital agreement it has signed with US sportsbook FanDuel.

Casino could be coming soon too 

Old Dominion is one of the few US states that has not regulated casino gambling, but this could soon change. 

As he did with sports betting, Northam requested changes to Senate Bill 36 too. These include tax amendments, which are now to be separated into three tiers. 

GGR up to $200 million will be taxed at 18%, while the state will take 28% for earnings between $200 and $400 million. After that, operators who earn in excess of $400 million will pay 30%. 

Should the bill come into full force, five cities in Virginia will be allowed to build casino premises. These are Bristol, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond and Danville. The first three already have agreements with operators in place – either formal or informal. Meanwhile, Danville is looking at seven interested parties and there also has been some interest in Richmond. 

Speaking to media outlet WJHL, Bristol Mayor Neal Osborne referred to the progress of the legalization process as a “positive step forward”. 

Joining neighboring jurisdictions in legalizing sports betting 

Bordering Washington D.C. has passed sports betting legislation, as has West Virginia. The vertical was supposed to go live in D.C. last month, having been approved in 2019, but was delayed. 

Maryland could also legalize sports betting later this year.

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