What forms of gambling are legal Virginia?
Virginia gambling options are expanding rapidly due to legislation passed in 2019. Recent changes to state law authorized mobile sports betting, retail sportsbooks, and the construction of up to five casinos. Daily fantasy sports and parimutuel horse racing betting are also legal and regulated in Virginia.
Legal Gambling in Virginia
- Land-Based Casinos (up to five will be built over the next few years)
- Sports betting (mobile betting apps and retail sportsbooks)
- Charitable gaming (bingo, raffles, and rubber duck racing)
- State lottery (retailers and online)
- Horse racing betting (live, off-track and mobile apps)
- Historical horse racing machines (Colonial Downs)
- Daily fantasy sports contests (specific operators are licensed by the state for online contests)
Online Gambling in Virginia
There are four forms of legal online gambling in Virginia.
The most recent addition to Virginia’s roster of online gambling options is sports betting, which lawmakers authorized in mid-2020. The first mobile sportsbooks in Virginia launched in January 2021. State law enforces a minimum age of 21 to bet on sports in Virginia.
The Virginia Lottery offers online subscriptions to its lotto drawings. These are purchased on the lottery’s website and customers must be 18 or older.
While off-track betting is legal for gamblers 18 and older, opportunities to do so became extremely limited after Colonial Downs closed in 2014. The track hosted a grand re-opening in August 2019, and now hopes to open 10 new OTBs across the state. For now, simulcast racing is available at Colonial Downs, four sports bars, and through licensed advance deposit wagering providers (online betting).
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. The minimum age to participate is 18.
Virginia Gambling Law
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.”
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.
In May 2020, the Governor signed SB 384 to legalize Virginia sports betting apps, websites, and retail sportsbooks. Under the law, the Virginia Lottery Board may issue a limited number of standalone online sports betting licenses to qualified operators and additional licenses to casinos and certain sports venues.
Governor Northam signed SB 1254 and HB 1847 in March 2021 to clarify that the state lottery may issue up to 12 mobile betting licenses not tethered to casinos and granting the state lottery powers to authorize wagers on additional sports. Previously, it was unclear how many standalone sportsbook licenses may be issued to operators, and it was the legislature’s responsibility to authorize wagers on additional sports.
Virginia was one of just a few states that prohibit land-based casinos until lawmakers passed legislation in 2020 to authorize the construction of up to five casinos pending resident approval via referendums held in November 2020 and 2021:
- Portsmouth (voted yes)
- Norfolk (voted yes)
- Danville (voted yes)
- Bristol (voted yes)
- Richmond (will vote in November 2021)
Virginia Sports Betting
Sports betting is legal in Virginia and regulated by the state lottery. Lawmakers passed SB 384 to authorize online sports betting, mobile sportsbooks, and retail sportsbooks at casinos and qualified sports venues.
The first Virginia sports betting apps launched in January 2021. Currently, Virginia gamblers can choose from six online sportsbooks:
The Virginia Lottery Board has approved three additional sportsbooks that intend to launch in the near future:
- Barstool Sportsbook
- Golden Nugget Online
- Bally Bets
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.