Virginia Lottery Issues Initial Casino Approvals, Sports Betting Regulations

Posted on: July 16, 2020, 12:41h. 

Last updated on: July 16, 2020, 02:32h.

The Virginia Lottery has given initial approval to four developers who want to build casinos in the state, though that’s only the first step in a long journey towards building the resorts. The preliminary approvals will give cities the ability to hold referendums on the casino projects this November.

Virginia lottery casino approvals
Noah Taylor of the Virginia Cavaliers returns an interception against the Virginia Tech Hokies in a game played Nov. 29, 2019 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Image: Ryan M. Kelly/Getty)

Lottery officials offered the first round of approvals after a preliminary review of the proposed projects. Developers have targeted casinos in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth so far. But regulators made it clear that this isn’t a sign that they are throwing their wholehearted support behind the projects.

Pre-certification should not be viewed as an endorsement of a specific proposal or of any city’s choice of a preferred casino partner,” Virginia Lottery executive director Kevin Hall said, via WAVY. “It also does not represent a guarantee that a casino license ultimately will be awarded.”

The Virginia Lottery will begin more extensive reviews in April 2021, at which point it will approve emergency casino regulations and begin taking applications. Those probes will include criminal background checks along with investigations into the financial performance of gaming operators.

The initial approvals were still an important step for local officials who want to bring casinos to their municipalities. The approvals will allow voters to have their say in referendums on Election Day this November. For instance, Bristol’s City Council voted Tuesday night to file a petition to hold a referendum on casino gaming.

Rush Street Gaming, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, and Hard Rock International are among the developers aiming to build casinos in Virginia.

Virginia Lottery Releases Draft Sports Betting Rules

The Virginia Lottery also released partial draft regulations for sports betting on Wednesday night. Final regulations are due by Sept. 15, but the public can comment on proposals between now and then.

The proposed regulations allow for betting on professional and college sports, though not on teams from schools in Virginia. The Virginia Lottery can issue up to a dozen licenses for mobile sports betting platforms. Sportsbooks are required to use official league data for in-play betting and will pay a tax rate of 15 percent on revenue.

Some observers worried that Virginia might implement a minimum hold percentage similar to the policy of neighboring Tennessee. Regulations there require a mandatory minimum 10 percent hold for all sportsbooks, a rule that may force bookmakers to provide inferior odds in order to increase profits.

Virginia’s General Assembly approved casinos and sports betting in April. That process required some back-and-forth with Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who sent back the first version of the bill with amendments that were signed off on by the legislature.

Under the law, only cities that met guidelines related to unemployment, poverty rates, and population decline could potentially host casinos. Only five cities fit the bill: Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond.