Virginia Voters Overwhelmingly Support Sports Betting, New Study Shows

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on December 12, 2018

It appears that voters in Virginia are not only on board with a new tribal casino in the state but also for the legalization of sports betting.

According to a recent study conducted on December 5 by the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy, 63 percent of Virginia voters agree sports betting should be allowed.

“Virginia voters are ready for legalized sports betting and casinos, just like they were ready for the lottery 30 years ago,” Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center, wrote in the report.

“And just as education funding was a justification to open the door to gambling then, directing gambling taxes to education seems to appeal to voters today,” Bitecofer wrote.

Following sports betting trends

Following the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May, conservative gaming states like Virginia, seem to be embracing the potential revenue sports wagering can bring in.

In November, Delegate Mark Sickles pre-filed a sports betting bill for the 2019 legislative session.

Sickles’ bill contains no provisions for in-person wagering but instead defines an approved “sports betting platform” as:

“… a website, app, or other platforms accessible via the internet or mobile, wireless, or similar communications technology that sports bettors use to place sports bets.”

The bill would give oversight of sports betting to the VA Lottery. Additionally, all matches involving Virginia schools would be off limits.

The lottery would issue a total of five licenses for $250,000 each. The state would establish a 15 percent tax rate, with the lottery keeping 2.5 percent.

The study showed when voters were asked “what would be their top argument for allowing sports betting,” 32 percent said sports betting and casinos will produce more tax revenue. Additionally, 29 percent of voters said regulating it will make it safer.

Tribal gaming in the Commonwealth

Along with the legalization of sports betting, voters also favor the Pamunkey Indians and their plans to build a casino in the Commonwealth.

A majority of voters, 64 percent, say the tribe should be allowed to open a casino. Fifty-eight percent of voters also said if a tribal casino is allowed, other casinos should be legal as well.

The Pamunkey Tribe won federal recognition as a Native American tribe in 2015. With that came a slew of treasures including access to federal grants, housing and educational opportunities.

It also permitted the tribe to pursue a gambling facility despite the states long-held ban on casino gambling.

Pamunkey Chief Robert Gray told the Washington Post in March:

“Federal recognition and the opportunities that it brings will mean greater job opportunities, more educational opportunities and the ability to provide better access to housing for our aging tribe. The resort is just a piece of that bigger vision and the hope for our future.”

The tribe estimates the casino could generate $1 billion in “indirect economic impact” annually, creating roughly 5,000 construction jobs and 4,000 full-time jobs.

The Wason study showed that 57 percent of voters agreed that casinos in economically distressed areas could help by creating jobs.

Any site the Pamunkey choose would pose a serious threat to MGM National Harbor, which is located right outside the Nations Capitol. According to the Post, MGM was one of several groups that opposed the Pamunkey’s request for federal recognition.

When it comes to the argument against sports betting and casinos, 43 percent of voters say legalization would promote gambling addiction.

Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick comes from West Texas where he graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in psychology. After a five-year stint in Chicago, where he wrote about local politics and graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, he moved to Washington, D.C. to write about issues related to gambling policy, sports betting and responsible gaming.

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