The state of Virginia has been historically opposed to sports betting, but the Virginia Lottery may be inching closer to the possibility of allowing sports betting. The lucrative gaming entity of the state is gearing up to respond to Old Dominion’s evolving gambling ecosystem. The Lottery is planning to dominate new gaming options that enter the state.
Kevin Hall, director of the Virginia Lottery, spoke to state senators at a finance committee last week, claiming that their role in the new gambling landscape is uncertain. If the state pursues its first most significant step in gambling in over thirty years, the state’s premier gaming entity would want a say. Protecting the high-profile Lottery’s dominance would be one of Hall’s key concerns as more competition enters the market.
The Lottery currently sells tickets worth over $2 billion each year, of which $600 million goes to the state public schools. West Virginia works with the lottery commission to regulate sports betting in its jurisdiction. Interestingly, Virginia never favored gaming in any capacity, and the state still doesn’t have a casino. The last of its horse tracks was also closed years ago.
The times are changing for the state now. The authorities are now more supportive of Bristol casino, located along the Tennessee border. The casino is considered a way to support the region’s plummeting economy and is supported by community leaders. The casino is awaiting a General Assembly approval in the 2019 session.
The Pamunkey Tribe gained federal recognition in 2016, which provides the rights to open a casino on tribal land. The new property is expected to open near the Colonial Downs and could beat Bristol to become the first casino in the state.
The state’s sports betting legalization bill could be introduced before the 2019 legislative session. Though details about regulation and taxation on sports wagering will need thorough discussion by the lawmakers, for a conservative gambling state like Virginia, this is a huge step towards gambling expansion.
The state’s changing attitude towards gambling can be driven by its neighbors too. As soon as the PASPA was struck down by the Supreme Court, neighboring states New Jersey and Delaware quickly started accepting sports bets. Connecticut, New York, and Maryland have also followed suit, and Rhode Island and Pennsylvania are also expected to start taking sports bets in the next few months. Virginia could end up losing some valuable revenue if it doesn’t open its market to sports betting soon.