State Lawmaker Pushing To Legalize Virginia Sports Betting Next Year

Written By Bart Shirley on October 26, 2018

A delegate from northern Virginia is working to bring sports betting to the state in 2019. Del. Marcus Simon, a Democrat from Falls Church, is working on legislation that he plans to introduce to Virginia’s General Assembly.

The next session of the legislative body begins in January 2019. Though Virginia does not have any casinos inside its borders, Simon told Fox 5 that he is confident about the possibilities for sports betting.

“I think there will be some appetite for this,” he said. “I think there is certainly a revenue opportunity in Virginia. We already see a lot of our residents’ dollars go across the river to the MGM casino, and we lose out on a lot of opportunities to capture some of that revenue.”

Simon believes that sportsbooks could open at Colonial Downs, Virginia’s soon-to-reopen horseracing venue, and at the four off-track betting parlors in the state. He also thinks that online sports betting could happen in Old Dominion, too.

Simon’s bill would make sports betting legal by July 2019. However, he foresees that some delays might take place and push that timeframe back.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the folks in the General Assembly decide it needs another year of study so we can figure out how it might work,” he said. “That said, I want to get the process started.”

Sports betting is happening in every direction on Virginia’s borders

There is no word yet about the General Assembly’s willingness to pass Simon’s bill. Unlike his counterpart to the west, Gov. Ralph Northam is remaining neutral about the issue for the time being.

Sports betting’s diaspora is impossible to ignore. In the five months since the US Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional, five new states have joined Nevada and begun offering sports betting in one form or another.

Those states include Virginia neighbor West Virginia and nearby Delaware. Washington DC‘s city council is considering adopting the practice for the federal district.

A bit further to the northeast, New Jersey is offering sports betting at an almost frenzied rate. In September 2018 alone, land-based and online sportsbooks in the Garden State earned nearly $24 million in revenue.

Of course $2.6 million of that went into the state’s coffers. For states like Virginia, that sort of effortless revenue infusion has to sound attractive.

The state did manage to operate at a $552 million surplus last year. However, Old Dominion continues to rebuild its economy after 2008’s Great Recession. Besides, the revenue from sports betting is essentially passive income to the state.

However, residents in Southern states like Virginia tend to frown upon gambling. So, Simon may find opposition to his bill that is more values-based than fiscally-based.

But, Simon won’t know the answer until January. It never hurts to try, anyway.

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Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is a writer who covers the NJ online gambling industry as well as a poker player from Houston, Texas. He has a master's degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and a degree in English from Texas A&M. In his spare time, Bart teaches math and business at Memorial High School in Houston.

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