Virginia gamblers can likely begin betting on sports in early 2021, a state lottery official said last week.
The Virginia Lottery Board has received 25 applications from potential sportsbook operators and expects to issue the first license early next year, according to Kevin Hall, executive director of the Virginia Lottery. Hall addressed the Virginia House Appropriations Committee last week.
“There has been a high level of interest by leading national and international operators. I think that validates Virginia’s efforts to strike an appropriate and responsible balance in the sports betting program,” Hall told the committee.
It has been a whirlwind year for the lottery, which was assigned responsibility to establish and oversee sports betting and to develop casino gaming regulations and ultimately oversee casinos now approved in four Virginia cities.
“We are now reviewing the applicants and we will conduct background and suitability checks within the 90-day time frame specified in the statute. We expect to be in position to issue the first online sports betting licenses early in 2021,” he said.
To meet its new responsibilities, the lottery is recruiting and hiring but expects to have all staff within its present Richmond facilities, Hall said. Gina Smith, who began work this summer, heads the new gaming compliance division. She formerly served as CFO of the Maryland Lottery for over 20 years and was acting director of that agency when it began to oversee casino gaming in that state, Hall said.
Legislation allows sports betting in Virginia only through online platforms but the four casinos — plus the casino proposed for Richmond — are guaranteed one of the state sportsbook licenses, Hall said, leaving only seven available spots.
Wagers will be permitted on professional sports, certain college sports except on Virginia colleges and other sporting events, plus bets on individual performance statistics of athletes in those sports and events.
Public and industry response to Virginia’s process was positive, Hall said.
“Our initial draft drew wide public comment and helpful recommendations from citizens, from major sports betting and casino operators, from several of the major sporting leagues. The reaction from the industry, so far, stakeholders think we have been transparent, accessible and reasonable during the rulemaking process,” Hall said.
The Lottery Board approved 70 pages of sports gaming regulations Sept. 15 and began accepting license applications Oct. 15. The application deadline was Oct. 31.
Sports wagering in Virginia is forecast to generate $5 million in state gaming tax revenue for state coffers in its first year and $50 million annually by year five, according to a 2019 report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.
Sports betting became legal in Tennessee on July 1, 2019 but wagering just came online Nov. 1, when that state’s first four licensed sportsbooks — Action 24/7, BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel — went live.
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