Virginia residents and tourists alike are able to find plenty to enjoy in the Old Dominion.
There are tranquil beaches and historic battlefields. Ancestral presidential homes and quaint wineries. Scenic drives and action-packed theme parks.
So, it is certainly fair to say that the commonwealth — which likes to remind the world that Virginia is famously for Lovers — is also for beachgoers and history buffs and nature lovers. But increasingly, Virginia is also for bettors.
For longer than most states, Virginia eschewed gambling, despite that fact that Americans have consistently shown they enjoy to gamble.
The first lottery ticket wasn’t sold in Virginia until 1988 (24 years after New Hampshire). It took just as long to legalize horse racing in the modern era, even though Virginia-bred Secretariat had become a legend in winning the Triple Crown in 1973. Virginia sports betting didn't launch until January 2021.
How Virginia is for Bettors
- Since online sports wagering began in Virginia in January 2021, operators have handled about $4.58 billion in sports bets.
- As a result of sports betting, the commonwealth of Virginia has realized about $26.74 million in taxes in just 15 months.
- Virginians have consistently expressed their enthusiasm for gambling, both through their wagering — sports gambling operators routinely see about $400 million a month in sports bets — and at the ballot box by approving casinos for a handful of Virginia cities.
- The commonwealth offers protections for bettors through the progressive “Bettors’ Bill of Rights” included in the law.
First Bets Taken in January 2021
However, after watching states around the country legalize sports betting following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018, Virginia legislators realized the appetite for backing one’s opinion on sports with a few dollars didn’t stop at the Virginia state borders.
In April 2020, the commonwealth’s legislature legalized online sports gambling and in January 2021, the sports bets started coming in and, well, they haven’t stopped as Virginians set a torrid pace for sports wagering right out of the starting blocks.
FanDuel Sportsbook called the Virginia start its most successful launch ever to that point.
Interestingly, Virginia initiated sports betting as online only, just like neighboring Tennessee had in late 2020. As of May, neither state has operating brick-and-mortar casinos although Virginia is poised to get its first temporary casino soon in Bristol and three more over the next two years as a result of referendums.
Protections in Place for VA Bettors
To Virginia’s credit, when legislators passed the sports gambling law that set out parameters for how the business would be conducted in the commonwealth, it attached a Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights.
That addendum spells out consumer protections and helps establish guardrails to mitigate dysfunctional gambling and even includes a mandate that a designated portion of gambling revenues are to be earmarked for problem gambling treatment and support.
Nevertheless, the commonwealth General Assembly decided earlier this year to ban the commercial use of the phrase, “Virginia is for Bettors.”
For transparency and full disclosure, this company has a website and an attached web domain of VirginiaIsForBettors.com. The phrase has also appeared on the website.
The parent company of VirginiaIsForBettors.com, the Gambling.com Group, is publicly traded on the NASDAQ and by self-description is “a media company and does not offer actual gambling services but helps online sportsbooks and casino operators acquire players.” It is licensed to do so in Virginia.
Nevertheless, the ban on “Virginia is for Bettors” goes into effect July 1. The penalty for a violation would be $50,000.
However, the fact remains that Virginians have enthusiastically embraced gambling, as evidenced by the financial data regarding its still growing sports wagering industry.
Virginia Sports Betting Revenue & Handle History
Bettors Wager More Than $4.5 Billion Since Launch
Since online sports wagering started in January 2021, gamblers have bet almost $4.58 billion on various sports events, as of the end of March 2022. Adjusted gross gaming revenue for the commonwealth’s sports gambling operators has been more than $171 million. Total tax collected has been almost $26.74 million with about $26.1 million going to the commonwealth’s general fund and more than $668,000 going toward problem gambling treatment and support.
There are 13 sports wagering operators with permanent permits in Virginia, including familiar brands such as FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook. Hard Rock received the latest permit approval and went live in late March while SI Sportsbook launched May 9 after being approved in November.
Sports betting’s popularity in Virginia is substantial even though the commonwealth has no major pro sports team that carries its name (albeit the Washington Commanders have offices in the state) and sports wagering on in-state college teams is prohibited.
Casinos Also are on the Way
Further evidence that Virginia is for bettors will manifest as brick-and-mortar casinos begin to open their doors. The first one, a temporary facility, has a planned opening in Bristol in July under the Hard Rock banner. The permanent hotel-casino complex is scheduled for summer 2024.
And there are other casinos coming — in Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth.
It’s important to note that Virginia casinos are only being built as a result of voter approvals. A second referendum on a casino in RIchmond, the state capital, will be held in November.
So, while the phrase itself will be banned under certain circumstances, it is absolutely a fact that Virginia is for bettors.