Virginia gambling options have expanded significantly due to legislation passed in 2019. That year, lawmakers approved a bill authorizing mobile sports betting, retail sportsbooks, and the construction of up to five casinos.
Legal online gambling options in Virginia consist of the following:
- Sports betting
- Parimutuel horse racing betting
- Daily fantasy sports
- Online Lottery
Other forms of legal gambling include:
- Land-based casinos
- Retail sportsbooks
- Charitable gaming
- State lottery (retailers and online)
- Horse racing betting at racetracks and OTBs
- Historical horse racing machines at Colonial Downs
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 Sports Betting Overview
Online sports betting is legal and available across Virginia to customers 21 or older. The first Virginia sports betting apps launched in January 2021 and will be followed by retail sportsbooks in the near future.
Legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam in April 2020 permits local casinos and professional sports venues to apply for licenses to operate mobile sports betting apps and websites.
The VA sports betting law tasks the Virginia Lottery Board with overseeing sports betting, issuing regulations, and processing licensing requests. The Board quickly got to work, approved the necessary regulations to govern sports betting, and issued the state’s first sportsbook licenses within nine months.
The law sets a minimum age of 21 to bet on sports and permits up to 12 mobile sports betting licenses not tethered to casinos plus retail sportsbooks at qualified venues.
Five of those licenses may be claimed by casinos that will be built in the cities of Danville, Bristol, Richmond, Portsmouth, and Norfolk, subject to voter referendums in each city to be held in November 2020.
The law also allows the lottery to issue additional licenses to any NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, or NBA team that relocates to Virginia and any racetrack that hosts NASCAR races. Licenses issued to sports franchises or racetracks will not count against the 12-license maximum. Additional legislation (SB 1254 and HB 1847) approved in Q1 2021 clarifies that the state may issue up to 12 standalone mobile betting licenses in addition to licenses issued to casinos and sports venues.
Licensed sportsbooks are permitted to accept wagers on pro sports, college sports, and esports with two major exceptions: sportsbooks may not accept wagers on games involving Virginia colleges, and they may not accept proposition wagers on college sports all.
Taxes and Licensing
Virginia sports betting licenses are issued at a cost of $250,000 and are valid for three years. Licensees must also pay a nonrefundable fee of $50,000 for each principal employee, potentially adding significantly to the total cost of licensing for operators.
Licensed operators are also subject to a 15% tax on adjusted gross revenue.
Official League Data
Licensed sports betting data are required to purchase official data from the major sports leagues to settle all in-play wagers, as long as such data is provided on “commercially reasonable” terms.
Virginia Sports Betting Launch Date
The new law took effect on 1 July 2020 and Virginia’s first online sportsbook went live on January 21st, 2021.
The Virginia Lottery Board moved quickly to implement the law:
- July 11st 2020: Sports betting law takes effect
- July 15th: Lottery Board releases draft regulations for public comment
- July 15th – August 19th: 35-day public input period for the sports betting regulations
- September 15th: Deadline for the Lottery Board to approve sports betting regulations
- October 15th-30th: Lottery receives 25 application requests
- January 2021: Lottery Board begins issuing go-live authorizations, and legal sports betting begins
Mobile Sportsbooks in Virginia
The Virginia sports betting market is served by numerous operators via mobile sportsbook apps and websites.
State law directs the Lottery to issue a minimum of four sports betting permits and no more than twelve. However, the law also states any permits issued to a major sports league franchise headquartered in the Commonwealth or a qualifying motorsports facility do not count toward the maximum.
In all, that leaves room for at least twelve and likely more mobile betting operators to set up shop in Virginia. Mobile betting apps that have either launched in Virginia or that are likely to in the future include:
- FanDuel Sportsbook (now live)
- DraftKings Sportsbook (now live)
- BetMGM (now live)
- BetRivers (now live)
- William Hill (now live)
- WynnBET (now live)
- Barstool Sportsbook (approved; waiting for launch)
- Bally Bets (approved; waiting for launch)
- Golden Nugget Online Gaming (approved; waiting for launch)
- FOX Bet
Retail Sportsbooks in Virginia
Virginia sports betting law permits retail sportsbooks at casinos, qualifying racetracks, and professional sports venues.
Sportsbooks at Casinos
Separate legislation passed in 2020 approves the construction of up to five brick-and-mortar casinos in Virginia. Each of five cities that meet certain population and economic criteria held or will hold referendums for voter approval to build casinos.
Five cities meet the criteria outlined in the casino law:
Any operators approved to construct a casino will be eligible to apply for a sports betting license.
Sportsbooks at Racetracks
Racetracks that host NASCAR races will be able to get in on the action thanks to input from Governor Northam.
Lawmakers originally passed a bill excluding motorsports tracks from participating in sports betting, but Governor Northam returned the bill with suggestions that they be given a place at the table. The General Assembly accepted the governor’s requested amendments and passed the bill into law.
Under the law, two racetracks qualify to apply for licenses or to partner with licensed sports betting operators on marketing:
- Martinsville Speedway
- Richmond Raceway
Sportsbooks at Professional Sports Facilities
Virginia sports betting law allows NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, and NBA franchises and the operators of professional sports facilities in the Commonwealth to apply for licenses.
Additionally, any franchises headquartered in Virginia and that pay $200 million or more in taxable wages are to be given “substantial and preferred consideration” when applying for sports betting licenses.
Substantial and preferred consideration is also given to facility operators that meet the following qualifications:
- The facility is where a professional sports franchise plays five or more regular-season games per year;
- The facility operator is headquartered in Virginia;
- The facility operator has an annualized payroll of at least $10 million in Virginia; and
- The facility employs more than 100 people
Online Horse Racing Betting in Virginia
Online horse racing betting is legal and regulated in Virginia. The Virginia Racing Commission oversees the conduct of all pari-mutuel wagering in the Commonwealth and issues licenses to operators that wish to offer their services to residents.
Currently, four advance deposit wagering operators (ADWs) are authorized by the Commission to accept wagers via telephone and internet:
- NYRA Bets
According to recent annual reports compiled by the Racing Commission, online racing betting “continues to be a major source” of pari-mutuel wagering handle in Virginia.
The availability of legal online horse racing betting is especially important in Virginia, whose racing industry has struggled of late. The Commonwealth’s sole remaining thoroughbred racetrack, Colonia Downs, closed in 2014 and only reopened in 2019 following the passage of legislation allowing the track to install instant horse racing machines that function similarly to slots.
Live racing and parimutuel wagering also takes place each year at the Great Meadow Racecourse, host to the Virginia Gold Cup Races. Last year’s event attracted a crown of 60,000 people. Additionally, Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock conducts 10 days of harness racing and wagering each year.
11 VAC §10-45 deals with advance deposit wagering in Virginia and requires all operators to apply for a license from the Racing Commission. Licensing applications require a non-refundable fee of $5,000 and are renewed annually at a cost of $1,000.
State law establishes a minimum age of 18 to bet on horse races.
Daily Fantasy Sports
The Virginia legislation formally legalized daily fantasy sports and established a regulatory framework in 2016 with the passage of the Fantasy Contests Act.
Under the Act, daily fantasy sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel must register with the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (OCRP) prior to hosting contests for Virginia residents. Registration involves providing key information about the business and comes with an $8,300 registration fee.
Once registered, Virginia fantasy sites must adhere to certain consumer protection regulations outlined in the Act. Some of the key requirements include:
- Ensuring all customers are at least 18 years of age
- Providing tools players may use to self-restrict from participating in fantasy contests
- Segregating player funds from operational funds
- Submitting to an annual audit with a certified public accountant
The OCRP maintains an updated list of registered fantasy contest operators here.
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 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 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.