There may be legalized Virginia sports betting soon, perhaps as early as next year. The state’s secretary of finance, Aubrey Layne, said as much last week.
He told a July 11 public lottery meeting, “You’re going to see a big push in the General Assembly session, probably the beginning of this year, because, as you all know, there are significant monies involved in (sports gambling) – very significant.”
Virginia Sports Betting still in infancy
Now, before residents in the Commonwealth get excited, it’s important to understand that Layne’s comments were speculation, rather than a statement of fact. There are no bills or motions in the legislature afoot regarding sports betting.
Still, Eilers & Krejcik, a leading gaming research firm, predicted last year that Virginia would be in the first wave of states to legalize sports betting. The report expected that first wave to legalize within two years.
These developments are somewhat shocking, given Virginia’s history of resistance to gambling. The state has no casinos, although it may begrudgingly get one in the near future.
The state only agreed to allow historical horseracing machines this year. Really, the only reliable betting in Virginia is the Virginia Lottery.
Because of that, the lottery’s executive director, Kevin Hall, had this to say to Layne:
“Let me just pitch on the 30-year history and the brand, the existing retail network and the proficiencies we have in marketing. And the fact that we do support policies of social purpose.”
A lottery spokesman later clarified that the organization would take no position on the issue of sports betting. However, Hall’s message was clear – the Virginia Lottery is likely the best-equipped state office to handle new gambling.
Early sports betting adopters surround Virginia
The impulse to legalize in Virginia is likely due to the changing landscape around Old Dominion. Certainly, the Supreme Court’s repudiation of PASPA accelerated the timetable for several states.
Nearby neighbors Delaware, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania have recently started accepting wagers on sports or fully legalized sports betting. Most state legislators and government officials hate watching money cross state lines when they could get a cut for themselves.
What sports betting would look like in Virginia is anyone’s guess. Lottery spokesman John Hagerty told the Virginian-Pilot as much in an interview:
“We’re like everyone else, we’re waiting to see what the General Assembly decides,” said Hagerty. “We obviously want to educate ourselves, but we don’t know if the lottery is going to play any role in sports betting – if sports betting even comes to Virginia.”
However, Layne urged the lottery to emphasize its social impact, since lottery profits in Virginia go to K-12 education. Most of the people in the meeting seemed to agree.
“I personally can’t think of any better group to really lead that charge than this group,” said Lottery board member Robert Howard.