Virginia moves to legalize sports betting in time for early 2021

Sports fans in Virginia could be able to place their first legal sporting wagers in early 2021 following the formal approval this week of a regulatory framework for sports betting. The Virginia Lottery Board moved to pass the legislation just in time for the September 15 deadline set by the Virginia General Assembly in its sports betting legislation adopted earlier this year.

The statute authorizes a minimum of four and a maximum of 12 licenses for internet-only sports betting platforms, with additional preferred consideration provided for applicants partnered with a major league team headquartered or competing extensively in Virginia.

Under the terms of the legislation, betting will be permitted on most major league and college sports, although not on games featuring Virginia college and university teams. Consumers will be able to place wagers on professional sports, certain college sports, and other sporting events, as well as on the performance statistics of individual athletes.

Applications for licenses will be accepted by the Lottery between October 15 and October 31, 2020. The statute provides the Lottery with 90 days from submission of a completed application to approve or deny issuance of a permit. That means licensed mobile platforms could begin offering the first legal wagers on sports in Virginia early in 2021.

The Lottery initially invited written suggestions on a regulatory framework from sports leagues and sportsbook operators in June, and the preliminary draft regulations were posted online for public comment beginning July 15 through September 9.

Virginia Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall explained: “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 NFL, MLB, NBA and the PGA.

“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.”

Lottery Board Chairman Ferhan Hamid added: “We continue to be committed to building a regulatory structure around sports betting that is transparent, responsible and fair to consumers and athletes. Ultimately, our goal as the ‘referee’ of sports betting in the Commonwealth is to ensure a level playing field for providers and for Virginia consumers who choose to place a bet.”

Under the sports betting statute and regulations, applications will be assessed on an extensive list of criteria. In addition to providing required fees and undergoing appropriate background investigations, applicants will also be assessed on a number of key criteria.

These include experience in wagering activities in other jurisdictions, history and reputation for integrity and compliance with regulatory requirements in other jurisdictions, and the ability to comply with proposed minimum internal controls and appropriate procedures for detecting and reporting suspicious or illegal gambling activity.

Virginia’s sports betting statute and regulations also require specific consumer protections. Operators must use proven identity and geolocation technology to verify online customers are at least 21 years old and physically located in the state in order to legally place an online sports bet. Successful applicants also must demonstrate a commitment to responsible gaming and a history of working to prevent compulsive gambling, including appropriate training programs for employees.

“The Virginia Lottery has earned the public’s trust by operating with integrity and fairness for 32 years,” said Hall. “We take our commitment to responsible gaming seriously on the traditional lottery side of our business, and we will continue to uphold these same principles in our new regulatory role in expanded gaming.”

The sports betting regulations can be viewed at www.vagamingregulations.com, a microsite providing key information and public transparency on issues around expanded gaming.

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