Virginia – a state that’s been notoriously conservative when it comes to online gambling – has recently looked towards legalizing forms of online gambling in the state, and this will come as welcome news to critics, who say the state has been far too anti-gambling in recent years.
Thankfully, however, things look set to change, and towards the end of 2018 state legislators started looking at legalizing online gambling. Virginia’s taxation from gambling was – compared to other states – pretty low, and many of their neighboring states had looked to legalize online gambling, meaning that Virginia was at serious risk of being ‘left behind’.
Before last year was up, a Democratic senator – Louise Lucas – submitted a bill, which looked at expanding the state’s gambling laws (in particular, extending to online gambling). This bill was called Senate Bill 1126, and it was first introduced on the 28th of December. At first, it went to the Committee on General Laws and Technology, and on the 21st of January 2019 they began considering the bill.
Just a few days later, they approved the bill by a 9-3 vote, and the bill was then sent to the Finance Committee. Here, it was favoured by 11-5. This then set the wheels in motion, and on the 31st January the bill was read out in the State Senate. A few amendments were made to the bill, and it was passed by the SEnate by a 28-12 vote on the 4th February. Next, the bill went to the House Rules Committee, which also approved it, and here, they voted in favour by a 12-5 vote. Eventually, it passed in the House, by 80-17.
The last stage was to have the bill signed by the governor, and on March 22nd, Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill. While there are still some complications to be navigated, as of this date, it meant that online gambling facilities now became legal in the state of Virginia – a move that will please both players and operators across the board.
What Does The Bill Include?
Inside the bill, it was decided that the Virginia Lottery Board would be the regulatory body responsible for regulating the new gambling sector, and the majority of the bill is written towards land-based casinos. Only certain cities – that are able to meet a wide variety of criteria – will be able to host casinos. In addition to this, any city that wants to host a casino will need to hold a public referendum. This will enable regulator to gauge whether the public support the idea or not.
The bill also called for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to review the current casino laws which are in place in other states – and report back to the designated committee about whether these regulations would work in Virginia, and – if so – how they could be implemented. The deadline for this task is the 1st December 2019, and once these details have been collected and analyzed, a final framework for the regulations will be drafted up.
Any city which wishes to host a casino will need to have held a referendum by the 1st January 2021. The final date for regulations to be put in place by the Virginia Lottery Board is July 1st, 2020. So, while it’s promising to see the state moving towards loosening its laws on gambling, it’s clear that this is by no means a quick process.
As of now, the cities which meet the criteria set out in the bill include Norfolk, Richmond, Portsmouth, Danville, and Bristol. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe also have the chance to run casinos in Norfolk and Richmond, and if this is the case, these cities won’t be able to have any commercial casinos.
Now, back to online gambling…
The bill states that the Virginia Lottery Board is the body responsible for issuing online gambling licenses in the future – and while details are scarce, it appears as though the state is looking to begin introducing online gambling to residents. Of course, regulation needs to be drawn up for the online gambling sector, and it’s likely to be a few years before anything is really set in stone here, but it’s definitely refreshing to the notoriously conservative state looking to – at least consider – online gambling.