Virginia Lottery approves sports betting regulations

The Virginia Lottery Board has approved sports betting rules, clearing the way for the licensing process to begin next month.

Earlier this year, Virginia lawmakers passed a bill to legalize online and mobile sports betting, which will allow wagering on professional collegiate sports event, excluding Virginia-based college and university teams.

Lawmakers in June then began accepting written suggestions from sports leagues and sportsbook operators as it developed rules for the market. Preliminary draft regulations were posted online for public comment from July 15 until September 9.

The Virginia General Assembly had required the Virginia Lottery Board to give its approval to the regulations by September 15.

“We have received and evaluated several hundred comments and suggestions submitted by citizens, sports betting and casino operators, and most of the major professional sports leagues, including the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and the Professional Golfers’ Association,” Virginia Lottery executive director Kevin Hall said.

“A lot of helpful feedback was provided during the public comment period, and the updated regulations approved by the Lottery Board today incorporate many of the suggestions from stakeholders and citizens.”

The approved regulatory framework will see a minimum of four and maximum of 12 licenses awarded, with applicants that are partnered with a major league team headquartered or competing in Virginia to be favoured.

The application process is set to run from October 15-31, with the Lottery having up to 90 days from the submission of an application to either approve or deny a permit. As such, the Lottery said licensed mobile platforms could begin taking bets from early 2021.

Among the key criteria for applicants will be experience in wagering activities in other jurisdictions, history and reputation for integrity and compliance, the ability to comply with proposed minimum internal controls, and having in place procedures for detecting and reporting suspicious or illegal gambling.

Licenses will cost an initial $50,000, after Governor Ralph Norton requested that the fee be lowered from $250,000 as one of a number of amendments that were adopted on the legislation that was approved earlier this year.

However, Norton’s request to increase the license renewal costs from $200,000 to $250,000 was also adopted, meaning operators will face higher costs further down the line.

Other key aspects of the regulations include that operators will need to pay a 15% tax on adjusted sports betting gross revenue, though this figure was reduced from an initial 20% rate that was proposed.

Licensed operators will also be required to use proven identity and geo-location technology to verify online customers are 21 and physically located in Virginia so that they can place bets legally.

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