Virginia Lottery Vetting Sports Betting Applicants

Less than 12 hours after Virginians in four cities approved new casinos, the Virginia Lottery says it’s still aiming to launch mobile sports betting operators in early 2021. It’s been a busy year for the Virginia Lottery — it first had to craft sports betting regulations in less than three months, is currently vetting applications, and it will now have to develop a regulatory framework for retail casino gaming.

Lottery Director Kevin Hall on Wednesday morning told board members that an early 2021 sports betting launch remains the goal, while Deputy Director of Gaming Compliance Gina Smith said the Lottery got a “significant” number of sports betting applications during its two-week window, Oct. 15-31. The Lottery has not released the names of applicants, but major players including BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel are likely among them.

Hard Rock, Caesars, and Rush Street Interactive all already have casino partners in the state, so it’s a safe bet they or their partners (William Hill in the case of Caesars) also offer retail and mobile sports betting.

Mobile platforms can launch before retail

On the casino front, voters in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth all approved brick-and-mortar casinos for their towns on Tuesday. Mobile sports wagering will be allowed to launch ahead of the opening of retail casinos, which could be years down the road. Hall said he’s hopeful the casino regulatory and application processes will begin in spring 2021.

The Virginia Lottery has had to move swiftly with regard to sports betting. Lawmakers approved sports betting during a special session on April 22. The law, which went into effect on July 1, mandated that the Lottery develop and approve sports betting rules by Sept. 15. The Lottery met the deadline, but then had to wait for the regulations to be posted in the Virginia Register before it could open the application process.

Hall said the Lottery got a little help from its friends in Maryland with the application process. Virginia has no gaming, but Maryland, where voters legalized sports betting on Tuesday, has retail casinos and existing gaming infrastructure. The gaming board there shared online application software with the Virginia Lottery, which helped streamline the process.

Vetting potential operators can be an arduous process, which includes reviewing financial records as well as doing background checks on the operators and some employees. The Lottery has hired consultant Spectrum Gaming to help with that process.

The board scheduled its next meeting for Feb. 3, 2021.

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