RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The House and Senate passed bills on Monday that could legalize sports betting in the Commonwealth for people ages 21 and over. The move comes after the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on the practice in 2018.
Del. Mark Sickles (D-43) said legalizing sports betting could help bring professional sports to Virginia. He said Washington Redskins Owner Dan Snyder approached him about the idea.
“Mr. Snyder said he’s going to invest a billion dollars in a stadium in some place and a part of making it feasible would be having a sportsbook in the location,” Sickles said.
Snyder is also reportedly seeking a license in Maryland, a state that still bans sports betting.
One bill being considered by the General Assembly would allow the state to give out between four and twelve permits for sports betting platforms. Only major professional sports franchises would be allowed to stand up a facility.
Del. Sickles said the change will allow the state to collect taxes on the billion-dollar industry that Virginia is currently missing out on.
“We hope to raise 30 to 50 million dollars a year if it gets going well and we can compete successfully with the illegal market where no taxes are paid,” Sickles said.
The NFL has long been concerned about the impact of sports betting on the integrity of the game. The league has called for substantial consumer protections.
The bill calls for the creation of a “consumer bill of rights,” which would outline protections for a user’s identity and account.
Del. Tommy Wright (R-61) has other concerns.
“I’ve been opposed to it all along,” said Del. Wright. “I’ve seen people in my own area who work very hard and then go and spend their money on lottery tickets and other gambling devices. I just don’t see in the long run where we gain from it.”
The bill creates a problem gambling support fund. It also includes a “voluntary exclusion program,” meaning people can sign up to ban themselves from sports betting.
It also would legalize the online sale of lottery tickets for the first time in Virginia. According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, six states are already making tens of thousands off of this annually.
The House still has to pass the Senate’s version of the bill and vice versa. Gov. Ralph Northam also has to sign off before it can become law.