People who expected Virginia lawmakers to embrace the sports betting revolution like its peers were disappointed on Friday as the assembly didn’t seem keen to jump to conclusions. At the first meeting of the General Assembly, several gambling bills were presented to the lawmakers.
However, numerous senators suggest that they lean towards Gov. Ralph Northam’s views on the matter which call for a comprehensive study in the subject instead of plunging straight into regulation.
, chair of the Senate General Laws Committee said during the meeting that he was tired of hearing about gambling. He noted that there are several competing proposals before the Assembly, creating an unsolvable puzzle in the short session. The bills on gambling could be brought to vote on Monday.
Ruff also said that he wants the committee to come up with a regulation sooner than later but noted that there are “an awful lot of tentacles out there” that create a whole puzzle of all the gambling bills presented before the assembly. Sen. Scott Surovell seconded his views, saying that there are too many opportunities to create problems with something the size and important of gambling regulations.
Various factions assembled during the Friday hearing. Representatives from Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth arrived to get gambling opportunities cleared for their cities. The chief of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe talked about creating a riverfront casino in Norfolk. He also said that the state shouldn’t overlook the Indians. All delegations wanted to start gambling operations within their jurisdiction for better jobs and revenue generation.
Delegates from the horse racing industry asked the lawmakers not to rush and avoid putting the new Colonial Downs in jeopardy. Fantasy sports sites DraftKing and FanDuel were also present during the hearing and said that there should be room for them to operate in the state, similar to the provisions in New Jersey where they are thriving.
The various bills in the assembly tackle gambling differently. The bill from Sen. Frank Wagner suggests that the sports betting operations should be run through the Virginia Lottery. It will provide more control and revenue to the state. Sen. Chap Petersen, on the other hand, suggests that brick-and-mortar establishments run privately should be allowed to offer sports betting.
The secretary of finance Aubrey Layne said that the administration has made the exploration of the right gambling options and deciding the type of financial and regulatory structures it needs, two of its top priorities. He added that there are many complex situations that the administration needs to understand. He also added that the governor doesn’t have a preference for any of the gambling bills.