Virginia online sports betting has thrived since it first launched in 2021. With more than a dozen platforms live, it’s a bustling market for online betting.
On to retail end of things, Virginia has made a lot of progress in recent years. Five brick-and-mortar casinos were authorized. One has been consistently held up, but four are moving forward, with Caesars Danville set to be the next VA casino to open its doors.
With the Virginia casino industry thriving, a key question remains unanswered: Will Virginia online casinos be legalized?
Spoiler alert: It’s a big ol’ “MAYBE.” Predicting the legislative success of any state’s online casino efforts is near impossible. In the US, we’ve seen mediocre bills passed and player-friendly legislation die in committee.
Whether Virginia will legalize online casinos remains an unanswerable conundrum. However, we can look at developments thus far to make an educated guess.
Virginia’s online casino story so far
Ask Virginia legislators about online casinos and you’ll probably hear crickets. They’ve been pretty mum on the subject. The state’s existing gambling platforms are a lot to manage. Casino revenue exceeded $35 million in April and sportsbooks took more than $500 million in March wagers.
Plus, there are still kinks in the system. Rivers Portsmouth, one of the aforementioned new casinos, was fined $275,000 for violating regulations. The casino has taken steps to mitigate the issues, but the fine is emblematic of a market that’s still trying to find its footing.
All this is to say, the book of Virginia online casino gambling doesn’t even have a prologue yet.
What would it take for VA to legalize online casinos?
First, state legislators would need to develop a bill intending to legalize online casinos. The bill would need to make it through various approvals before reaching the desk of Gov. Glenn Youngkin. This, of course, is an incredibly truncated summary. Any online casino bill would likely take months or years to make it to Youngkin’s desk.
Even then, it’s unclear whether or not Youngkin would support online casinos. He just signed a bill supporting new problem gambling treatment initiatives. Given his concerns for Virginia’s youth, online casinos might not be on his radar at this point.
On the other hand, having a strict framework in place to protect gamblers might be more reason to allow online casinos. With the power to protect players, online casino platforms could be much safer.
One final factor is existing Virginia sports betting operators. The state has an existing pool of operators that could easily launch online casinos, if licensed. These include DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars, FanDuel, BetRivers, and more.
Pressure from the neighbors?
If anything could spur Virginia to make progress with online casinos, it’s the surrounding region. Neighboring West Virginia launched online casinos in 2020. Nearby New Jersey and Pennsylvania have long been mature online casino markets, both driving astronomical revenue for their respective denizens. Michigan is the newest player on the scene, with that state’s legalization coming in 2021.
Only one legal online casino state borders Virginia, but that could be enough to give the state a little push toward legalization. Pressure from bordering states historically isn’t the single reason for a new market to legalize, but it certainly can’t hurt. Ohio legalized sports betting after Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia did. Illinois followed in Iowa and Indiana’s footsteps.
We haven’t seen the same domino effect for online casinos just yet, but could we? Possibly, especially considering the benefits of being a late-arriver.
Could the copycat approach work?
Being late to the party has its advantages. Namely, you can learn from both the successes and mistakes of existing markets. Virginia could use another state’s framework to get started, then adapt the rules and regulations to better fit the commonwealth.
For example, here are the online casino fees and tax rates for operators in the four legal states:
- West Virginia: $250,000 license fee with a $100,000 five-year renewal, 15% tax on gross revenue
- Pennsylvania: $4 million to $10 million license fee with five-year renewal of $250,000, taxes vary by game
- 14% peer-to-peer such as poker
- 16% table games
- 54% slots
- 36% sports betting
- New Jersey: $100,000 application fee, which can be used toward a $400,000 license fee if approved. Annual renewal of $250,000. 15% tax on gross gaming revenue plus 5% investment alternative tax.
- Michigan: $50,000 application fee and initial license fee of $100,000, five-year renewal fee of $50,000. Graduated tax based on adjusted gross receipts:
- Less than $4 million: 20%
- $8-10 million: 22%
- $10-12 million: 24%
- $12 million or higher: 28%
Virginia (8.6 million) is closest to New Jersey (9.3 million) in population. The Garden State could be a good example-setter for the commonwealth.
In short, the structure for online casino operations can vary wildly from one market to the next, even with only four states live. Virginia could learn a lot from its nearby competing markets. Because the US allows gambling regulation on a state-by-state level, Virginia can use the structures above as an example or start from scratch.
From spark to flame?
If Virginia was the next state to legalize online casinos, it would be the southernmost state to do so. As online gambling expands beyond sports betting, which is undoubtedly the fastest-growing gambling sector right now, Virginia could set off a domino effect and spark more legislation on the east coast.
That’s speculation, of course. But history has shown us that markets like to keep up with the Joneses, proverbially speaking.
Whether or not Virginia becomes the first in a new wave of online casino states, we’ll keep you posted on all progress right here.