Sports betting in Virginia

In April of 2020, Virginia saw legislation passed and signed that legalized sports betting in the state. Implementation of sports betting in Virginia has begun with FanDuel accepting Virginia bettors as of January 21, 2021.

In addition, land-based casinos could be arriving in Virginia, though after the launch of online sportsbooks. The state put forward five cities with flagging economic indicators, and each one could potentially get a casino. First, though, residents of each city will need to vote to approve adding a casino to their community.

The Virginia Lottery Board is overseeing the establishment of sports betting and casino gambling rules. In September, the group formally approved the regulations governing sports betting after allowing almost three months of public comment.

The bill stipulates that the lottery board can approve a minimum of four and a maximum of 12 sports betting licenses for online sportsbooks. In addition, the five possible casinos could each receive a sports betting license, along with a professional sports team, if one were to relocate to Virginia.

Currently, there are no major professional teams that play their home games in Virginia. The Washington Football Team has a training facility in Northern Virginia, and there have been overtures by owner Daniel Snyder to build a stadium in the region.

The lottery board accepted applications for sports betting licenses in the latter half of October 2020. While partnerships and specific sites have not officially expressed interest, several entities did comment on the regulations. These included DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, BetRivers and Caesars/ William Hill, among others.

Sportsbook partnerships with casinos in Virginia

There are not any casinos currently in Virginia, and unlike some other states, there are no requirements that a sportsbook site operator have a physical presence in the state. With Caesars’ recent purchase of William Hill, that dynamic duo could be a player if it chooses to go after a license in Virginia. The same could apply to BetMGM, assuming MGM pursues a license.

With sports betting being first implemented in Virginia as a totally virtual experience, and with up to 12 licenses initially up for grabs, the extent to which partnering is even necessary remains to be seen. It’s also a possibility that the lottery board makes future changes to the regulations once casinos open in the allowed locations.

Currently, there are no provisions for any integration between the online betting sites and onsite sportsbooks. It seems unrealistic to assume that the operators and bettors won’t want some type of changes, if for no other reason than simple convenience.

Virginia sports betting bonuses and promotions

Since there are no approved sports betting sites currently within Virginia, we can only look at potential bonuses and promotions offered by potential sites.

  • DraftKings offers a $25 join bonus along with matching your first deposit up to $500 and a risk-free bet up to $500.
  • Fox Bet offers a risk-free first bet up to a total of $1,000.
  • BetRivers has a $250 match bonus.
  • Unibet offers $30 in free bets and a $600 risk-free bet.

These bonuses generally require the new customer to make wagers at least equaling the amount of the bonus. In many cases, you’re not necessarily receiving cash bonuses, so you can’t just sign up and withdraw the money. However, the bonus can give you some additional funds with which to wager.

There may be some more attractive offers available when sports betting debuts in Old Dominion. With the number of licenses that will be granted, competition will be fierce to grab bettors clamoring to try the online sportsbooks for the first time.

How does sports betting work in Virginia?

Sports betting in Virginia will most likely begin in early 2021. Prospective operators have until Oct. 31 to submit applications, after which the lottery board will have up to 90 days to approve the licenses. Implementation will occur as licenses are granted and the operators implement their betting sites.

Sports betting will initially take place online via applications provided by approved sportsbook operators. Bettors will need to download the application and register for an account. The accounts will be tracked by geolocation, and legal betting will be allowed while the bettor is within Virginia’s borders.

The minimum age for placing a wager in Virginia is 21. When casinos open, minors will not be restricted from entering, but they won’t be able to legally place a bet.

What can you legally bet on in Virginia?

According to the Virginia Lottery website, wagers will be allowed on professional sports, certain college sports and other sporting events, as well as wagers on the individual performance statistics of athletes in such sports and events.

Sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, NASCAR and various soccer leagues will be included. College basketball and football will be available for wagering, but not college teams from Virginia.

The last clause is intended to include daily fantasy sports and other fantasy games as legal to wager on, although DFS has been legal in Virginia since 2016.

The types of bets that sports bettors are familiar with and expect to find on a site will be allowed in Virginia. According to the lottery board, these include moneyline bets, over/unders, teaser bets, parlays, futures, exchange wagering, live bets and proposition bets.

Given the lack of significant exclusions, with the exception of Virginia collegiate teams, successful applicants shouldn’t have to make many significant changes to the product they present to bettors. The brand image of the particular sites shouldn’t take a hit based on what Virginia allows in the way of wagering.

As we mentioned previously, there are no major professional sports teams in Virginia, but there are several of them in neighboring states that generate interest in Virginia.

NFL betting

For the better part of 30 years, the Washington Football Team was the only game in town in Virginia. The team was successful and played just across the Potomac River in the District of Columbia. Tickets to old RFK Stadium were impossible to come by, perpetuating the mystique around the team.

In the last 20 years, the team has been largely unsuccessful, and as a result, other NFL teams have risen in popularity in Virginia. The Baltimore Ravens have won two Super Bowls since 2000, and the Carolina Panthers have appeared in a couple of them. With their consistent success, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a large following in the region, as well.

Of course, the Super Bowl is always a huge wagering opportunity. It will be interesting to see if the lottery board can get the license approval process complete in time for Virginia to grab its share of the betting pie for the game.

MLB betting

The Baltimore Orioles have followed a similar path as the Washington Football Team. The arrival of the Washington Nationals and its recent world championship have made it more of the team of choice in Virginia.

From the era when they were seen every day on TBS, the Atlanta Braves still have a decent following. The New York Yankees — because they’re, well, the Yankees — are as popular in the state as they are nationwide.

NHL betting

Hockey is not a particularly popular sport in Virginia. Most diehard fans are people who have relocated from other regions where the game is more prevalent. For longtime Washington Capitals fans, though, the team’s Stanley Cup victory in 2018 after 40 years of frustration was terrific.

It’s unlikely that hockey will be a big driving factor in the success of sports betting in Virginia. The Capitals are popular, and there are enough people from north of the Mason-Dixon Line to add some volume to the game’s handle.

NBA betting

Traditionally, the NBA has not been particularly popular in Virginia. The Washington Wizards have not been deep in the playoffs since a finals appearance in 1979. There have been some standout college players from Virginia who played in the NBA, notably Allen Iverson, Dell Curry and Alonzo Mourning.

Beyond the national favorites like the Lakers and Celtics, there really isn’t any team that fans in Virginia embrace. The NBA has some work to do in reversing recent drops in TV ratings, and one could assume the same is true when it comes to wagers placed on the league’s games.

College football

As with most states without any major professional teams, college football, which will be included in sports betting, is the most popular sport in Virginia. The state is home to a pair of ACC schools, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

In terms of football, Tech has had much more success than its rival, although Virginia has had nice runs over the past 35 years.

There are also two other FBS teams in Virginia. Old Dominion and Liberty recently made the jump from FCS and have had some degree of success, but nothing like their big brothers in Blacksburg and Charlottesville.

Unfortunately, Virginia sports betting legislation excludes in-state collegiate teams, so the rest of the major college football landscape will have to suffice for sports bettors. From a national perspective, none of the Virginia schools have been relevant where the College Football Playoff is concerned, so there should still be quite a handle for the sport.

College basketball

College basketball is also open for wagering for Virginia bettors, just not teams from the state. Note that the prohibition on betting on local college teams does not apply to tournaments in which a Virginia-based team or teams are playing, so long as teams from other states are also participating.

The ACC is arguably the best conference in college basketball, so despite Virginia Tech and Virginia being off-limits, the rest of the league is in play. North Carolina is extremely popular, and Duke carries with it a huge national reputation. The SEC has teams in neighboring states, most notably Kentucky but also Tennessee.

Maryland and Georgetown, from the Big Ten and Big East, respectively, are in the Washington, D.C., metro area. The region known as Northern Virginia also falls in that area, so even though those two well-known basketball schools are not in the state, they might as well be, geographically speaking.

March Madness is another potential gold mine for legal betting sites. In 2020, Michigan actually accelerated the approval of casino sports betting in hopes of cashing in, but the subsequent COVID-19 shutdown ruined that plan.

Other sports of interest

There are expected to be other popular sports included, particularly UFC, professional golf and tennis. The UFC generates a lot of interest, and parlay betting for its fight cards is very popular. For golf, the focus is generally on futures betting for the major tournaments, and it’s much the same for tennis.

There will be no legal wagering allowed on the Olympics in Virginia.

Legal vs. illegal online sportsbooks

Legal online sportsbooks are ones that have been licensed by the state or states in which they operate. The operators submitted an application and met stringent criteria for consideration to be allowed to operate an online sportsbook. To access wagering using a legal website, a bettor generally has to be within the jurisdiction granting the license.

Illegal sportsbooks generally operate outside the United States and don’t adhere to any regulations, although they may appear to. They are not legally allowed to offer wagering, but because of the technology afforded through the internet, they post lines and accept bets on sporting events.

Are Virginia sportsbooks safe to use?

Although online sports betting is still months away, the sportsbooks that successfully navigate the process in Virginia will be safe for bettors to use. The Virginia Lottery Board is the regulatory body that is managing the sports betting and casino permitting process. It will also oversee the adherence to the regulations once sports betting is up and running in Virginia.

The Virginia Lottery Board has 35 years of experience running the state-operated lottery system and will be selecting operators that meet its criteria that it developed over the last several months. Virginia is also not the first state to implement online sports betting, so the lottery board will benefit by selecting operators with experience in state-regulated applications.

Detailed regulations for funding and withdrawals haven’t been finalized, but the draft indicates that a variety of methods will be required, including the use of credit and debit cards, wire transfers, ACH and other means that the lottery board deems reasonable.

How do I know if a sportsbook is legal?

The best way to know if a sportsbook is legal is to consult the website of the entity with oversight authority of sports betting in the state or other jurisdiction. It’ll have the legal sites listed with valid URLs and any restrictions associated with sports betting in the state. For Virginia, it’s www.valottery.com.

Legal sportsbooks also have domain names ending in .com and generally make it easy to deposit and withdraw funds. A red flag is a deposit method of cash or cryptocurrency and withdrawal policies that specify high minimums and take two weeks or longer to complete.

Also, a legal sportsbook will be upfront about states from which it can accept wagers and will have geolocation coding to ensure that you and it are operating within the law. Another way to test the legality or at least reliability is to try out the customer service response time and quality.

For Virginia, the entire sportsbook operation is online. There is no specific requirement that there is a direct relationship between the sportsbook and a physical casino.

VA gambling revenue and tax rates

There is a flat tax rate of 15% on the sportsbook’s adjusted gross revenue. Adjusted gross revenue equals gross revenue minus winnings paid out, incentives to bettors, uncollectable gambling receivables and excise taxes on sports betting paid pursuant to federal law.

How does Virginia’s gambling market compare to Pennsylvania?

Virginia differs from Pennsylvania in several ways. Pennsylvania does not prohibit wagering on teams that are inside the state. Only high school athletics and amateur athletics other than collegiate sports are prohibited.

Pennsylvania, at the time sports betting was legalized, already had legalized and operating casinos. Therefore, partnerships between the casinos and online sportsbook providers were formed to implement sports betting. There are onsite sports betting locations where bettors can fund accounts and redeem winning tickets.

Virginia has no such relationship, as the casino and sports betting legislation was approved at the same time. The casino process will lag behind the online sports betting implementation since the five locales that qualify for casino operation will need to approve them via ballot.

From a pure online sports betting perspective, there aren’t enough differences in the type of wagering allowed that would require much difference in implementation for the operators. The Pennsylvania systems require an interface to a point-of-sale system in casino locations, but that doesn’t affect the actual wagering choices.

Both states require that bets using the approved methods be made within their borders, although they don’t require that the bettor is a resident. Geolocation software is required for verification purposes.

It’s assumed that the same online providers in Pennsylvania will make a similar play to operate in Virginia. For online sports betting, margins are relatively low, so larger volume is critical for profitability.

How sports betting got started in Virginia

Colonial Downs, the only racetrack in Virginia to offer pari-mutuel wagering and off-track betting, operated about 30 miles southeast of Richmond from 1997 to 2014. It paved the way for sports betting and casinos to operate in Virginia.

Following the 2018 Supreme Court ruling that opened the door for state-approved sports betting, the Virginia Legislature approved a yearlong study beginning in 2019. Following the study, a bill was introduced the following year and was passed in April 2020. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the legislation after some back-and-forth negotiation.

Virginia timeline to legal sports betting

Following passage, the legislation was assigned to the Virginia Lottery Board to establish rules for implementing sports betting and casino gambling in the state. The legislature had put a Sept. 16, 2020, deadline on finalizing and approving regulations for the operation of online sportsbooks in Virginia.

On July 15, the lottery board released draft regulations for public review and comment. After reviewing the comments, the board approved the regulations on Sept. 15, one day before the legislative deadline.

The lottery board set a period of Oct. 15 to Oct. 31 to accept applications for licenses to operate online sports betting sites. After the receipt of the applications, the board has up to 90 days to make a decision on whether to approve them.

The board is estimating that online sports betting will be live, at least for some sites, by January 2021. It’s assumed that at least four sites will begin operation at the same time, per the regulations.

As casinos begin operation at some later point, it will remain to be seen what relationship will develop between retail gambling locations and online sports betting sites.

Virginia sports betting FAQ

Is sports betting legal in Virginia?

Yes, sports betting was approved in Virginia in April 2020. Initially, all wagers will be made online through operator-provided applications. Although bettors will not have to be residents of Virginia to place a bet, they will need to be within the borders of the state to wager. The minimum age to place sports wagers is 21.

Can I bet on college teams?

Yes, college games are included in approved sports available for wagering, but live bets on college competitions are not allowed. Teams from schools in Virginia are not eligible for sports betting.

Is it legal to bet on the US elections?

According to regulations, US elections are not defined as a sport. Therefore, it is not legal to bet on them in Virginia.

Is esports betting legal in Virginia?

According to the regulations, “‘Sports event’ or ‘sporting event’ means … electronic sports event …” Therefore, it could end up being legal to bet on esports in Virginia.

What types of bets are available?

  • Single-game bets
  • Teaser bets
  • Parlays
  • Futures bets
  • Over/under
  • Moneyline
  • Pools
  • Exchange wagering
  • Live wagering
  • Propositions bets

Is DraftKings legal in Virginia?

Daily fantasy sports are legal in Virginia, so residents can utilize DraftKings for DFS. Virginia began accepting applications from online sportsbook operators for licenses to provide sports betting platforms on Oct. 15. If DraftKings applies and is approved, then it will be legal to use it for sports betting when it is ready to accept accounts in Virginia.

Can I bet at FanDuel in Virginia?

Daily fantasy sports are legal in Virginia, so residents can utilize FanDuel for DFS. Virginia began accepting applications from online sportsbook operators to provide sports betting platforms on Oct. 15. If FanDuel applies and is approved, then it will be legal to use it for sports betting when it is ready to accept accounts in Virginia.

What is the tax rate for operators/sportsbooks?

There is a flat tax rate of 15% on the sportsbook operator’s adjusted gross revenue. Adjusted gross revenue is defined as gross revenue minus winnings paid out, incentives to bettors, uncollectable gambling receivables and excise taxes on sports betting paid pursuant to federal law.

Who is allowed to apply for licensing in Virginia?

The regulations don’t specify who can apply, but the following guidelines are included:

A. An applicant for a sports betting permit shall:

1. Submit an application to the director, on forms prescribed by the director, containing the information prescribed in subsection B.

2. Pay to the department a nonrefundable fee of $50,000 for each principal at the time of filing to defray the costs associated with the background investigations conducted by the department. If the reasonable costs of the investigation exceed the application fee, the applicant shall pay the additional amount to the department.

The board may establish regulations calculating the reasonable costs to the department in performing its functions under this article and allocating such costs to the applicants for licensure at the time of filing.

B. An application for a sports betting permit shall include the following information:

1. The applicant’s background in sports betting.

2. The applicant’s experience in wagering activities in other jurisdictions, including the applicant’s history and reputation of integrity and compliance.

3. The applicant’s proposed internal controls, including controls to ensure that no prohibited or voluntarily excluded person will be able to participate in sports betting.

4. The applicant’s history of working to prevent compulsive gambling, including training programs for its employees.

5. If applicable, any supporting documentation necessary to establish eligibility for substantial and preferred consideration pursuant to the provisions of this section.

6. The applicant’s proposed procedures to detect and report suspicious or illegal betting activity.

7. Any other information the director deems necessary.

C. The department shall conduct a background investigation on the applicant. The background investigation shall include a credit history check, a tax record check and a criminal history records check.