What forms of gambling are legal in the state of Virginia?
If you’re looking to gamble in the state of Virginia, your options are limited. There are no Virginia casinos, and only three other live gaming formats are legal according to state law. Players looking for video poker can cross the border into West Virginia and play its video lottery machines. Full-service casinos are in the border states of Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia.
Sports fans, not to mention daily fantasy sports operators DraftKings and FanDuel, scored a big win in 2016, when the Commonwealth voted in favor of allowing licensed DFS operations within the state. Other forms of legalized gambling include charitable bingo and horseracing. Bets on horses may be made at live races, at an off-track race book or on mobile devices.
Legal Gambling in Virginia
- Charitable gaming (bingo, raffles, and rubber duck racing)
- State lottery (retailers and online)
- Horseracing (live, off-track and mobile apps)
- Historical horse racing (Colonial Downs)
- Daily fantasy sports contests (specific operators are licensed by the state for online contests)
Online Gambling in Virginia
There are three forms of legal online gambling in Virginia. The minimum age for each is 18 years old.
The Virginia Lottery offers online subscriptions to its lotto drawings. These are purchased on the lottery’s website.
While off-track betting is legal, opportunities to do so became extremely limited after Colonial Downs closed in 2014. The track hosted a grand re-opening in August of 2019, and now hopes to open 10 new OTBs across the state. For now, simulcast racing is available at Colonial Downs and four sports bars within Virginia.
Virginia became the first state to explicitly legalize daily fantasy sports contests in 2016. Sites like DraftKings, FanDuel, Fantasy Draft and Yahoo are licensed operators in the state.
Online Gambling Law in Virginia
Virginia bills H1584, HB 1700, and S 1195, introduced in 2011, deem it illegal for any person within the Commonwealth to play an online casino game based within the state. In fact, according to 18.2-325 of Virginia state code, illegal gambling is defined as “the making, placing, or receipt of any bet or wager in the Commonwealth of money or other consideration or thing of value, made in exchange for a chance to win a prize, stake, or other consideration or thing of value, dependent upon the result of any game, contest, or any other event the outcome of which is uncertain or a matter of chance, whether such game, contest, or event occurs or is to occur inside or outside the limits of the Commonwealth.”
However, a loophole exists in that Virginia law does not expressly make it illegal to game through an online casino hosted offshore or out of state. Those who choose to exploit this opportunity should be fully aware of the restrictions that the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act place on these activities.
The Fantasy Contents Act of 2016 legalized daily fantasy sports gaming online. Operators must be licensed by the state and follow strict rules and regulations. This requires a $50,000 fee. Like other forms of online gambling in Virginia, the minimum age is 18.
Land-based Casinos in VirginiaVirginia is one of a handful of states that forbids land-based casinos, both commercial and tribal. However, some state lawmakers are currently working to legalize casinos in five different cities within the Commonwealth. Advocates promote casinos to boost tax revenues and increase employment opportunities. Private investors as well as the Pamunkey Indian tribe have expressed interest in developing and operating casinos within the state. The legislature is now studying the impacts of tribal gaming in the state.
Home Poker Games
Social gaming, including home poker games and ones of pure chance, is legal in Virginia if several conditions are met. The home may not be used for the sole purpose of gambling. All participants must have an equal chance of winning. The house may not take a fee or rake for hosting the games. There is no bet limit for social gaming in Virginia.
Fantasy Sports in Virginia
Fantasy sports contests are a legal activity in Virginia. All major operators accept players from the Commonwealth State. There are no restrictions on the types of contests permitted. The companies that accept Virginians include DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo and Fantasy Draft.
Fantasy Sports Laws in Virginia
Virginia became the first state to fully legalize fantasy sports contests. In February 2016, the Legislature passed the Fantasy Sports Contests Act. The governor signed it into law on March 7, 2016.
Fantasy sports sites that operate in Virginia are required to pay a $50,000 licensing fee. The state is permitted to audit the companies twice a year. Players from Virginia that are under 18 are restricted from entering fantasy sports contests. Employees of fantasy sports companies may not enter contests with Virginia participants.
The Virginia Lottery was created through several legislative and constitutional measures. The process was completed when voters approved a 1987 measure passed by the state legislature. The first lottery tickets were sold on September 20, 1988.
The Virginia Lottery spreads a wide variety of games. These include instant games, lotto drawings, raffles and Print n’ Play. Tickets to major lotto drawings may be purchased on the Virginia Lottery’s website through subscriptions. Instant game ticket prices start at $1 and run as high as $30.
Interstate Virginia Lotto Games
- Mega Millions
Virginia Intrastate Lotto Games
- Pick 3
- Pick 4
- Cash 5
- Bank a Million
Virginia Lottery Laws
The Virginia Lottery had a long path to legalization. In 1970, Virginia voters went to the polls to give the state legislature the right to create a lottery. Voters approved this through Proposal No. 2 in November 1970 by a nearly two-to-one margin. However, it took until 1987 for the Virginia Legislature to revisit the issue and approved a state lottery. Voters affirmed it at the polls in November of that year. Tickets hit stores in September of the following year.
Lottery revenues originally went towards the state’s general fund. On November 7, 2000, voters went to the polls and approved Question No. 1, also known as the Lottery Proceeds Fund, which moved lottery funds towards municipalities. It passed by a 6:1 margin. The money is earmarked for municipalities to spend on public education.
Virginia Horse Racing
Horseracing is legal in Virginia. The only track in the state is at Colonial Downs. The track closed in 2013 due to a dispute with horsemen’s groups. It reopened on August 8, 2019, for its first live race in six years.
Off-track betting is legal in Virginia. Bets may be made at the track’s racebook or on the TVG app and website. There are four licensed off-track betting venues in the state. These are located at sports bars.
Historical racing is permitted at Colonial Downs. These are bets made on horseraces in the past. The bettor does not know which race is being bet. The machine plays the race out on a screen or simply shows the winners on a display. The choice is up to the player. This is as close to slot machines as it gets in Virginia.
Virginia Racing Laws
The Virginia Racing Commission regulates the activity in the state. It operates under 11VAC10-20-190 in Virginia law. Tracks may offer up to 125 racing days scheduled each year unless otherwise approved by the racing commission. Purses must be held in a horsemen’s account separate from other expenditures. Off-track betting at an on-site racebook and mobile apps is permitted by a state track if there are races in that calendar year.
Racetracks may offer historical racing machines on the premises. These may operate year-round. These are also regulated by the Virginia Racing Commission under 11VAC10-47. Off-track betting is permitted by Colonial Downs and licensed taverns in years where there is live racing in the state.
Horse bettors must be at least 18 years of age. This includes live racing, off-track, mobile betting and instant racing.
Traditional Games of Skill
Traditional games of skill are permitted in Virginia. This includes the website Worldwinner, operated by GSN. WPT Online accepts players from the state as it qualifies under sweepstakes laws.
Virginia Skill-based Gaming
Skill-based gaming machines for money is illegal in Virginia. Some arcade-style games are permitted if the amount of the prize does not exceed the amount wagered. Cash may not be awarded.
Virginia Charity Bingo Laws
Virginia permits charities to spread bingo games, raffles and rubber duck races. These forms of charitable gaming are regulated through 11VAC15-40-50. The games are regulated by the Virginia Charitable Gaming Board. Players at bingo games must be at least 18 years of age. Children 14 and up may play with a signed consent form from a parent or guardian. Children of all ages may buy or sell raffle tickets.
Charities must be registered with the state and qualify under IRS rules. Door prizes are capped at $50 in value for a cumulative total of $25 per session. No individual bingo win may exceed $100. No special prize, such as a sealed envelope or pull-tab bingo game, shall exceed $1,000. The amount of each prize must be disclosed before a contest is held.
Bingo operators, including volunteers, must be at least 18 years of age. No more than $15 in food and drink may be paid to volunteers during a session.
Virginia Gaming Regulator Directory
Virginia Gambling FAQ
Does the Virginia Lottery permit anonymous winners?
The Virginia Lottery permits winners of $10 million or more to remain anonymous.
Are gambling winnings taxed in Virginia?
There is a 4% state tax on gambling winnings including from the state lottery.
Is sports betting legal in Virginia?
Not yet, but it is close. The Virginia Legislature passed a bill that would permit the state lottery to regulate sports betting in 2020.
Is poker legal in Virginia?
Poker is legal at home games but not commercially.
Are home poker games legal in Virginia?
Yes. Any gambling game is legal at home if the house does not take a rake or fee.
What casino games are legal in Virginia?
Casinos are not legal in Virginia yet. However, there is a study and potential referendum that would permit casinos in five cities and a reservation in the state.
Is smoking permitted at Virginia gaming establishments?
Smoking is legal at bingo halls and racetracks if the smoking area is in a separately ventilated area and not open to minors. The same policy applies to bars and restaurants.