Virginia was the 21st and latest U.S. jurisdiction to go live with sports wagering, but it was the first and remains the only jurisdiction to explicitly state that the bettors have rights.
In fact, a Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights is part of the legislation which allowed the commonwealth to start issuing online licenses to gambling operators in January 2021.
There are five pillars to the Virginia Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights: The right to expect integrity and transparency from the gambling operators; that the privacy of data is protected and the security of funds is assured; there is appropriate opportunity to self-exclude from gambling; that there are protections for the vulnerable, and there is a right to recourse.
Some of the Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights covers folks who are actively gambling and want to be as informed as possible by being provided clear odds and payouts. Some of the measures address those who have problems with gambling and need help in staying away from betting, or who want their gambling to be limited and want to utilize measures that would inhibit their wagering. And some measures make it incumbent on operators to not allow the “vulnerable,” which would include those who are underage, to gamble.
Those pushing for the consumer protections initially wanted stronger wagering disclosure requirements in terms of odds and other gambling information. But gambling operators pushed back contending the information that was being called for would be impossible to include on a gambling website, such as handle and the odds of winning a bet and an explanation of how the odds were calculated, especially as some of that data changed continuously.
That information would certainly be interesting but given the myriad of wagering propositions offered on just a single event, it would be virtually impossible for operators to provide such finely detailed information — and the operators said so.
Also impossible at the moment is evaluating the efficacy of the Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights in Virginia because sports wagering has just started in the commonwealth. As of March 1, just five online sports wagering licenses have been issued, mainly to some big operators: DraftKings, FanDuel, Rush Street Interactive, Caesars and BetMGM.
Initially, a dozen such licenses were approved (there were 25 applicants) but the number of licenses is likely to be adjusted upward. Meanwhile, the Virginia rollout has been deliberate to say the least.
Will More States Follow Virginia?
Brian Hess, executive director of the non-profit Sports Fans Coalition, pushed for the Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights in Virginia and elsewhere. His take so far is that what has happened in Virginia is a good starting point.
“It has been quiet since the Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights was made part of the Virginia sports wagering legislation that was signed into law,” Hess said. “What I can say is that it all happened without much complaint or push-back from the industry. And considering how quickly DraftKings and FanDuel moved to be in Virginia, that would be an indicator that operators don’t have a problem with the Bill of Rights. So, I suppose, in this case no news is good news. As I’ve said before, I would have liked to see more teeth in enforcement but this was an important step.”
Hess said there’s an opportunity to extend the reach of the concept into neighboring Maryland. Last year, the idea of a Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights gained traction in the state senate’s version of a sports wagering bill but that was washed away when the bill was abandoned. Following a voter referendum in November in Maryland when sports wagering was overwhelming approved, bills in both the Maryland House of Delegates and the state senate are currently being hammered out.
“It’s been gratifying to see that Maryland is also looking at incorporating consumer protections in their legislation,” Hess said, “so a Bill of Rights is on the table there.”