Long Opposed to Gambling, Virginia Introduces Two New Sports Betting Bills

Posted on: November 22, 2018, 10:47h. 

Last updated on: November 22, 2018, 10:47h.

Virginia has long been opposed to all forms of gambling, but it seems the state suddenly wants in on the action. Lawmakers there introduced not one, but two new bills this week aimed at bringing sports betting to its 8.5 million citizens next year.

virginia sports betting
Senator Chap Petersen brought forward one of two new sports betting bills in Virginia. (Image: WVTF Radio)

The first came courtesy of State Sen. Chap Petersen, (D-Fairfax City), who pitched a plan that would see some of the proceeds from sports betting used to slash tuition fees at community colleges.

“It recognizes the reality that sports gambling is pretty much a reality,” Petersen told the Virginia Mercury newspaper. “We’ve already done daily fantasy and that’s widespread. This is just sort of taking it to the next level where a number of states are already going.”

Petersen is referring to the Supreme Court decision to strike down a federal ban on sports betting, which opened the door for state legislators to decide for themselves how they’d like to handle these games. There are currently seven states that have legalized sports wagering and three more that have recently passed bills.

Under Peterson’s proposal, titled the “Virginia Sports Gaming Tuition Reduction Act,” local districts would need to hold a vote before issuing any gaming licences. No wagering on college sports would be allowed.

Doubling Betting Bills

Apparently one sports betting motion wasn’t enough, though.

Shortly after the first one was introduced, Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) introduced a measure of his own. His sports betting bill would slap a 15 percent tax on all gaming revenue, generating an estimated $41 million annually which Sickles says will go towards “major research projects” at state universities.

The proposals are very much in the early stages. A myriad of issues will first need to be ironed out, including how sports betting will be offered in the state. Virginia currently has no brick and mortar casinos, although that could soon change.

And while some lawmakers have suggested an online-only sports betting model, Peterson has a different vision.

“I’m not interested in people sitting in their parents’ basement with their pajamas on betting on a ‘Monday Night Football’ game,” Petersen noted to the Virginia Mercury. “I want this to be part of a social entertainment package where people get out and spend money.”  

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

Old Dominion has a long history of opposition to gambling, Virginia is one of just 10 states which doesn’t allow gaming of any kind.

  • Lawmakers rebuffed attempts to legalize riverboat casinos in the mid-90s.
  • In 2014, they banned so-called Internet Game Cafes, which offered electronic betting terminals.
  • Meanwhile, the aforementioned casino bill has been stuck in the Senate for the past five years.

In light of the sweeping changes taking place across the country, it would seem lawmakers have had a change of heart.

The two sports betting proposals will be put before Virginia’s General Assembly when it convenes early in the new year.