Virginia Governor Amends, Returns Gambling Bills
Bills amended and returned
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has amended and returned gambling expansion bills to the General Assembly. With Gov. Northam having a deadline of midnight on April 11 to act on the legislation, he did not sign the bills into law and he did not let the deadline pass.
The amendments that Gov. Northam made need to be “agreeable to both House and Senate patrons” before he can sign the bills into law. The main proposed changes for legalizing sports betting (Senate Bill 384 and House Bill 896) relate to fees, self-exclusion, and definitions.
The amendments also call for bettors to be allowed to place wagers on college sporting events that take place in the state, as long as no teams from Virginia are involved.
A reconvened session for the Virginia Assembly is set to take place on April 22. It was on March 8 that the General Assembly adjourned after an extended session resulted in sports betting legislation being passed.
Specific sports betting amendments
For the sports betting bills, the House and Senate had previously argued extensively about the allowance of betting on college sports. Therefore, this issue will likely result in extensive debate once more.
Gov. Northam proposes a sliding scale of license application fees rather than a standard $50,000 fee for all applications. This sliding scale would be dependent on the number of principals in the applying organization. He also proposes raising the renewal fee for a sports betting license from $200,000 to $250,000.
The amendment proposes giving the Virginia Lottery 90 days to decide on a sports betting license application rather than 60 days. Sportsbooks would also be allowed to launch under a different brand.
Casino expansion also under consideration
Bills calling for casino expansion also were sent back to the General Assembly by Northam. Senate Bill 36 and House Bill 4 call for five casinos to be constructed in the state. The chosen locations are “economically challenged” and need help, according to lawmakers.
These cities are Richmond, Portsmouth, Danville, Norfolk, and Bristol. As per the bills, a voter referendum would be needed on the issue. The main amendment that Northam proposes relates to attributing some of the resulting casino tax revenue toward the construction of public schools.
Road to sports betting legalization
As part of the proposed legal sports betting framework in Virginia, a dozen mobile sports betting licenses are up for grabs. There would also be retail sportsbooks at the five new casinos (provided they go ahead), as well as at the Colonial Downs racetrack and professional sports venues.
Currently, there are no professional sports venues in the state, but rumors suggest that the NFL’s Washington Redskins could be making a move to the state from their current location in Maryland.
As part of the sports betting bills, all licensed sportsbooks would have to use official league data when offering in-game betting. There would also be a 15% tax rate on gross gaming revenue and the Virginia Lottery would be in charge of regulation.