Virginia House and Senate Pass Online Lottery Bills
Both bills passed by wide margins
Both chambers of the Virginia state legislature passed bills this week to permit online lottery sales. Current state law prohibits such sales, but the bills would remove that restriction.
The House passed HB 896 by a vote of 69 to 29, while the Senate also passed its SB 384 easily, 27 to 12. Both bills are effectively the same.
The bills would also legalize sports betting, but there are some differences between the House and Senate versions. Those will need to be ironed out before advancing the legislation to Governor Ralph Northam.
Gov. Northam is not pro-gambling per se, but he has expressed a willingness to consider it. He previously gave casino gambling legislation the green light.
Online lottery could fill online casino gap
While people are most familiar with retail lottery sales – buying a ticket at a gas station, for instance – there are six states the offer lottery products online: Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
Customers in these states can buy tickets for draw games like Mega Millions and virtual scratch-off lottery tickets on their state lotteries websites. The sites also offer keno and instant-win games that resemble slots or semi-skill games but are really just dressed-up random games.
A few other state lotteries offer subscription services which people can sign up to in order to automatically buy lottery tickets on a scheduled basis.
Virginia does not currently have any legal gambling except for the lottery. State residents may be drawn to the slots-like instant-win games as, while they are still just lottery tickets, they feel like casino games.
Work to do on sports betting bill
The two bills are largely the same when it comes to authorizing sports betting in the Commonwealth of Virginia, bar a couple of key differences.
The first is the proposed tax on adjusted gross revenue. The Senate’s bill, SB 394, aims to levy a 15% tax. HB 896 from the House wants the state to take more, outlining a 20% tax. A different bill, HB 911, only called for a 10% tax. It was jettisoned in favor of HB 896.
Both the Senate and House agree on fees: a $250,000 application fee and a $200,000 renewal fee every three years.
The second main area in which the chambers differ is college sports. The House bill bans in-game betting on games involving the state’s schools. The Senate bill imposes no such restrictions.
One aspect on which the chambers do agree is that state sportsbooks must use official league statistical data, something the sports betting industry strongly opposes. Numerous gaming companies use official league data, but requiring them to do so by law is very different from allowing them to seek out competing providers.