After becoming the second state to legalize sports betting this year, the Virginia lottery says there could be online / mobile sportsbooks up and running in the state by December.

After becoming the second state to legalize sports betting this year,

That timeline is based on a new website launched by the Virginia Lottery – the agency tasked with regulating the new industry – to keep prospective operators in the loop.

Virginia Lottery Sets Target Dates for Regulatory Stepping Stones

Per the website’s “Key Dates” section, the sports betting legislation passed last month (House Bill 896 and Senate Bill 384) will officially become Virginia law on July 1.

From there, the Lottery expects to hold its first board meeting to discuss the logistics and regulatory red tape involved in creating the Commonwealth’s new gambling industry. During the month of August, the board will invite members of the public to offer commentary on how Virginia sports betting should be set up.

A pivotal deadline for the Lottery board to finalize its regulatory framework for legal sports betting has been set for September 15.

And by late September, the Lottery will begin accepting licensure applications from up to 12 online / mobile sportsbook operators.

Finally, the following statement means license applications must be approved or denied by December 14:

“The Lottery shall make a determination regarding whether to issue the sports betting permit within 90 days of receipt of a completed application.”

Accordingly, the Lottery’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page within the new sports betting site confirms that tentative schedule:

“Legal sports betting in Virginia will not be available before mid-to-late December 2020, at the earliest.”

If the Lottery satisfies its stated timeline, bettors in Virginia may have legal online / mobile sportsbooks available just in time for the NFL Playoffs – which will kick off on January 9.

nfl playoffs 2019, afc championship

NFL AFC Championship, January 2020.

Nonetheless, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak – which has forced professional and collegiate sports to shut down since mid-March – may determine which betting markets are available upon launch.

Lawmakers and Governor Compromise to Pass Muddled Bill

The Virginia General Assembly sent HB-896 and SB-384 – identical legislation approved by the state’s House of Delegates and Senate, respectively – to Governor Jay Northam (D) on March 8 after an extended last-minute session.

Northam had previously gone on record to support legal sports betting in the state, so he was widely expected to sign off on the legislative package.

But before doing so, Northam sent the bills back to lawmakers with a set of requested amendments.

Under the bills’ original language, sports betting would be limited to between four and 12 online / mobile operators, as Virginia is one of the few states with no commercial or tribal casinos. However, the original bills also included an allowance for professional sports leagues to offer onsite sports betting in stadiums should the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, or MLS ever relocate a franchise to Virginia.

One of Northam’s proposed amendments added NASCAR to that list, as Virginia is home to both the Richmond Raceway and Martinsville Speedway venues.

Northam also requested that prospective operators pay a $50,000 background check fee for every principal member of their company.

And with the General Assembly also passing a bill to allow up to five casinos to be built, Northam requested that these venues be given “substantial preference” when they eventually apply for a sportsbook license.

Lawmakers in both chambers offered their approval for Northam’s amendments on April 22, paving the way for Virginia to join the growing list of states where sports betting has been legalized.

Over the next seven months, the Lottery will work to satisfy its stated timeline and launch legal wagering by late December.

Jonathan Zaun

One of Gamble Online's first dedicated reporters, Jonathan has spent well over a decade reporting on the gaming industry. While breaking legal news is his main area of expertise, Jonathan is an avid blackjack player & strategist who follows professional poker closely.

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