DraftKings in Virginia?
It’s probably a matter of when and not if. And based on the company’s recently public comments, it wants Virginia to have as many sports betting options as possible.
DraftKings officials recently filed a series of comments as part of Virginia’s public commenting period on the proposed sports betting regulations.
The commonwealth’s call for comments precedes the formal launch of online sports betting in Virginia. Pending formal approval of the regulations, the first sportsbook operators will likely be online in late 2020 or early 2021.
In a recent earnings call and press release, DraftKings asserted its plans to enter the Virginia market. Now, it’s trying to assure it and other Virginia operators can be a one-stop-shop for sports bettors.
Caesars Entertainment recently filed the first notable public comments in Virginia. The Nevada-based company has partnered with the city of Danville to possibly open a casino in 2023.
Caesars’ comments were focused primarily on regulations related to responsible gaming. However, officials also pushed for Virginia to lift its planned ban on Olympic wagering.
In subsequent comments, DraftKings also asked the Virginia Lottery to lift that restriction, as well as one that could limit future sports betting options.
Olympic betting with DraftKings in Virginia
Once VA sportsbooks are live, bettors won’t be permitted to bet on games involving in-state colleges and universities. It’s a short-sighted restriction, especially considering Virginia’s lack of professional sports teams.
Caesars and DraftKings, though, are choosing their battles carefully.
In addition to in-state institutions, bettors in Virginia won’t be allowed to bet any props throughout college football. But neither company addressed those restrictions. After all, it’s likely a good way to rile lawmakers and regulators.
Instead, the focus is specifically on Olympic betting.
As DraftKings officials wrote:
“The General Assembly was very deliberate in deciding which events were carved out of allowable wagers and Olympic events were specifically not included as prohibited events. In order to fully eradicate the illegal market, the legal market must be able to compete, which means including as wide an array of event and betting options for consumers.”
Other potential betting restrictions in Virginia?
What constitutes a “sports event?” DraftKings hopes to get clarification from Virginia officials.
Here’s Virginia’s broad definition found in its proposed regulations:
“Sports event” or “sporting event” means professional sports, college sports, and any athletic event, motor race event, electronic sports event, or competitive video game event.
DraftKings wants that definition to expand and include “ … or any other sports event or combination of sports events approved by the Board.”
The rationale? For one, the current definition could already preclude some popular betting offerings.
“There may be additional sports events throughout the year, such as the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby, the National Basketball Association’s All Star Slam Dunk Contest, the National Football League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award, or awards shows such as ESPN’s The ESPY’s, that are events that people wager on annually, conducted with integrity standards aligned with Virginia’s expectations,” officials wrote in the public comments.
By offering such betting options, Virginia can assure bettors won’t cross state (or international) borders to find what they want.
Virginia faces stiff competition
It’s not just illegal offshore books and neighborhood bookies that legal Virginia sportsbooks inflicting competition. The surrounding states, notably West Virginia and soon Tennessee, will offer legal betting options.
Additionally, Washington, DC, has stumbled out of the gate with legal sports betting, so a vast Virginia betting market could be enough to lure DC residents.
As DraftKings wrote:
“It has been our experience that regulators who provide sports betting operators flexibility to offer a wide range of wagering events have seen their markets mature the fastest. A sports betting operator’s ability to offer an expansive betting menu in a timely manner will help sports wagering licensees draw players to and retain players in a regulated sports wagering market.”
Additionally, they would also help align Virginia with some of the more successful markets, including New Jersey and Colorado, they wrote.