The Virginia Lottery Board on Wednesday approved emergency regulations for casino gambling as expanded gaming in the commonwealth continues.
Virginia Lottery Board members met virtually to discuss the latest lottery initiatives. They include the new Virginia sports betting market, traditional lotto offerings, and the opening of full-fledged Virginia casinos.
This past November, voters in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth passed casino referenda. In fact, each city approved the casino proposals by an approximately 2-1 margin.
Those casino-resorts are expected to begin opening in 2022 and 2023. Additionally, Richmond voters could join the mix if its ballot initiative is successful during the election cycle later this year.
Now, we have the initial casino regulations, as well as a timeline for permanent regulations.
VA Lotto Board OKs emergency regulations
The Virginia General Assembly legalized sports betting and casino gambling in 2020. Lawmakers then put the VA Lottery in charge of regulating the industries.
“The Lottery’s role as regulator is based on its three-decade track record as a respected and trusted gaming authority in the Commonwealth,” said Kevin Hall, executive director of the Virginia Lottery. “The Lottery’s professional staff and our Board will work to protect the public interest by ensuring the integrity of casino gaming through the strict enforcement of the law and our regulations.”
Online sports betting formally launched in late January, and five major operators are already accepting wagers.
Virginia casinos, though, face a slower road to launch.
Here’s the timeline:
- Feb. 3: VA Lotto Board approves emergency casino regs.
- April 7: The emergency regulations become effective.
- May 26: The public comment period on the intended regulatory action closes. The staff prepares proposed permanent regulations for the board’s approval (deadline of Nov. 22).
- After Governor’s approval of regs: 60-day public comment period for proposed permanent regulations.
- At least 15 days (but no later than 180 days) after the public-comment period: The board adopts proposed regulations as final, and they’re sent to the Executive Branch for review.
- Oct. 7, 2022: This is the outside date upon which final regulations become effective.
Industry standards for Virginia casino regs
Bob Fontaine, the VA Lotto’s deputy general counsel, walked board members through the highlights of the casino regulations during the meeting.
The topics included:
- Licenses, permits, and fees for operators
- Facility operations and internal controls
- Games and how they operate
Fontaine admitted that the sheer length and breadth of the regulations can appear daunting. However, he assured board members that they’re in line with the industry standards.
“This is not going to surprise the industry,” he said of the initial regulations. “This is the type of regulatory scheme they expect. And frankly, I think they’d be surprised if they saw something that was substantially different than what we have here.”
Additionally, Fontaine spoke in length about the process of background checks for permit applicants. He also stressed that board members, the public, and key stakeholders will be able to weigh in throughout the process of developing regs.
“Our goal is to maintain some flexibility for the operators, but to have that flexibility within the structure of positive and meaningful regulations to maintain the integrity of gaming in the state,” he said.