Editor’s Note: The following represents the view of the author.
Virginia is live with its legal and regulated sports betting market following Thursday’s official launch.
FanDuel Sportsbook was the first out of the gate. It was due to a deal with the Washington Football Team that gave the industry giant a head start on its competitors.
Additional operators will join the online-only market in the coming weeks. Virginia Lottery officials told PlayVirginia they expect multiple sportsbooks to be open in time for Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7.
It’s an exciting time here in the Old Dominion, which became the 21st US state or territory to offer legal sports betting.
But it’s also something of a weird time for longtime gamblers like myself. That was my first impression after I logged into FanDuel Sportsbook in VA a little before 3 p.m. and fired off my first legal wagers on launch day.
Black Market No Longer Needed
You see, as a seasoned gambler, I often had few kosher wagering options at my disposal. I was often forced to offshore sites. At times, when even semi-legal options weren’t available, that market would turn a shade darker than gray.
I’ve done sports betting at the offshore sportsbooks, of course. That’s been an interest of mine for the past half-decade. But even before mixed martial arts and NFL and MLB betting, I pocketed some college spending money between classes by hustling online-casino bonuses. With basic-strategy blackjack and reasonable rollover requirements for the bonus money, it was a fairly fruitful endeavor back in the day.
A few years later, a new fad arrived, and I was grinding at the low-limit tables during the online poker boom of the early 2000s.
During these times, there were also bowl-game pools and Super Bowl squares and fantasy leagues. Some $2 Kentucky Derby bets and Daytona 500 drafts and even some election wagers.
I also filled out countless March Madness pools – ones with a few friends from the office, as well as massive and organized private ones that required both an invitation and a personal reference to join.
As any reasonable person might surmise, the actual wagering probably wasn’t the riskiest part of these ventures. Instead, the real gamble came when it was time to deposit and withdraw my funds.
Funding an offshore sportsbook by sending a Western Union or MoneyGram to the name of someone you’ve never met in Nicaragua? Losing a sizable chunk of your offshore sportsbook deposit before it even clears because the price of Bitcoin is so volatile? Firing off an entry fee via PayPal or Venmo, knowing you have little recourse if things go south and you get screwed?
When legal, safe and regulated options aren’t available, gamblers turn to these less-than-kosher alternatives.
First Impressions: FanDuel Sportsbook in Virginia
Oh hey, would you look at that: I can actually make a deposit with real payment methods I’ve heard of. Oh, and there’s $100 in my account.
Two minutes into my FanDuel Sportsbook experience, I was off to a good start on Thursday.
The day prior, I realized I was somehow in FanDuel’s system (past DFS play?), and they offered me a $100 bonus for verifying my account on the eve of the launch. Who doesn’t like free money?
Sure enough, the following day, when FanDuel finally went live, I had $100 in my account, as promised. I then placed a bet. However, it turns out that my first legal wager – Ottman Azaitar to win on Saturday at UFC 257 – was cursed. Not only was Azaitar forced off the fight card, but he received his pink slip due to an idiotic breach of the COVID-19 safety measures in Abu Dhabi:
"It's bad, he's gone, he's no longer a UFC fighter."
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) January 22, 2021
Thankfully, FanDuel offered plenty of other betting options to keep me entertained.
I could bet major US sports leagues (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). I could wager on popular niche sports (UFC, NASCAR, PGA, ATP, WTA). Even top international leagues (EPL, F1, Euro Tour) were available.
There were straight bets, parlays, teasers, and round robins. Moneyline, spreads, totals, props, futures, and even live betting.
In all honesty, some offshore sportsbooks absolutely shine when it comes to their vast array of offerings. But aside from some rather exotic options that I had zero interest in betting anyway (snooker, lacrosse, handball, and darts, for example), FanDuel had everything I wanted from a betting perspective.
I also found FanDuel’s lines to be competitive, if not better than many of my former offshore options. House rules and other terms and conditions were easy to find. Customer service was a click away. And the software for the app and desktop site all functioned quickly and seamlessly.
And the best aspect of all? A sizable risk-free bet for new FanDuel Sportsbook players like myself. (If you want to take advantage of that great sign-up offer, be sure to register using our link to get a risk-free bet up to $1,000.)
FanDuel’s Safe Pay Options, Responsible Gaming
The real relief of my FanDuel experience came when I looked at the deposit and withdrawal methods. No digital currency, no shady money grams, no fly-by-night payment processors that cater to the betting, porn, and online-pharmacy markets.
Instead, with a legal and regulated market, the big boys don’t need to shy away from the sportsbooks. You can fund your FanDuel account with your online banking credentials, debit/credit cards (MasterCard and Visa), PayPal, wire transfers, or gift cards. There are also other options such as in-person funding (“cash at counter”) at FanDuel-affiliated brick-and-mortar casinos.
Ready to cash out? PayPal, online banking, paper checks, or cash at counter are all options.
After dealing with years of sketchiness in the gray and black markets, I appreciated the legitimacy, the familiarity, and the security that FanDuel Sportsbook offered.
Additionally, FanDuel offered another aspect of betting that I didn’t see at the illegal sportsbooks: legitimate responsible-gaming measures.
A prominent “Responsible Gaming” link on the site directs customers to a sort of command center. From there, players can set user limits, self-exclude, or even set a “timeout” period for three days to a year. Additionally, a “reality check” box pops up every 30 minutes. I appreciated that gentle reminder that maybe it was time to leave the virtual sportsbook and enjoy the real world for a bit.
It’s a nice touch. It’s a responsible approach. And it was a good reminder that, after spending half of my life wagering with both my money and my safety, I finally had a safe place to call home and make some bets.