Virginia Lottery releases draft sports betting regs, advances casino projects for referendums
The Virginia Lottery expects to begin accepting applications for sports betting licenses in October, and licensed mobile platforms could begin offering the first legal wagers on sports in Virginia in January 2021.
Members of the state’s Lottery Board were briefed at a virtual public meeting today on the initial draft regulations for online sports betting.
The Virginia Lottery was assigned regulatory responsibility for expanded gaming by the 2020 General Assembly. Proposed licensing and consumer protection regulations were posted today at the Virginia Lottery website, with rules governing operational matters to be released in August. All draft regulations will remain open with ample opportunity for public comment.
Anyone interested in submitting feedback on the regulations prior to the close of the public comment period in September can access the Lottery General Notice at www.townhall.virginia.gov. The sports betting legislation requires the state Lottery Board to adopt an initial regulatory framework for sports wagering by Sept. 15, 2020.
“The General Assembly was clear in its expectations for the Lottery to build a regulatory framework around sports betting on an expedited timeline, and we are committed to adopting responsible rules of the road in a timely and transparent way,” Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall said.
The sports wagering legislation authorizes the Virginia Lottery to issue up to 12 licenses for mobile-only sports betting platforms. The statute permits legal betting on most major league and college sports, though the legislation specifically prohibits wagers on games involving teams from Virginia colleges and universities.
The regulations require mobile platforms to verify customers are at least 21 years old and physically present in Virginia in order to legally place an online sports bet.
The draft regulations released today detail the license application process for online sports betting platforms, including the Lottery’s review of applications for the limited number of state licenses. The draft regulations also include important consumer protections, including a Sports Bettor’s Bill of Rights and a tool that allows problem gamblers to voluntarily place their names on a self-exclusion list blocking their access to online gaming platforms.
Separately, the Lottery announced today that it has completed its preliminary review of four proposed casino projects, paving the way for local referenda in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth. The casino legislation adopted by the 2020 General Assembly required eligible host cities to assess factors including total capital investment, potential economic impacts, and the gaming experience of their preferred casino partner. The statute required the Lottery to conduct a preliminary assessment of the financial viability of each city’s preferred casino partner and the partner’s experience in operating casinos in a regulated environment.
The casino legislation also designated Richmond as a potential host city, but the City of Richmond is on a different timeline and was not required to submit pre-certification materials at this time.
“The initial proposals submitted by officials in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth successfully cleared the pre-certification requirement and now can move forward to schedule a local voter referendum in November,” Hall said. “Pre-certification should not be viewed as an endorsement of a specific proposal or of any city’s choice of a preferred casino partner. It also does not represent a guarantee that a casino license ultimately will be awarded. Pe-certification simply allows this process to continue moving toward a vote by residents of each city.”
The casino legislation requires a more comprehensive review of casino projects, including criminal history and financial performance investigations of designated gaming operators, during a much more extensive license application process. That process will not begin until after the Lottery Board approves emergency casino regulations in April 2021 and begins accepting applications.
The Lottery, as the Commonwealth’s regulator of new sports betting and casino gaming activities, has an online microsite providing key information and public transparency.
The site, www.valottery.com/casinosandsportsbetting, includes information about the rulemaking process and estimated timelines for when expanded gaming will become available in Virginia.