Virginia Lottery Lays Out Sports Betting Roadmap, Revenue Numbers

Posted on July 15, 2020 - Last Updated on August 21, 2020

On Wednesday morning, the Virginia Lottery board of directors took a significant and expected step toward the rollout of legal VA sportsbooks.

Partial and preliminary sports betting regulations are now available for anyone in the state to review and comment on.

Additionally, the board reported on what was a stellar fiscal year that just ended. Finally, it gave reasons why the current fiscal year may be the best for the VA Lottery.

Sports betting regulations and an updated timeline

If everything goes according to plan, the next year will begin with operators receiving licenses to offer sports wagering in VA.

A presentation by the lottery’s executive director, Kevin Hall, shared the latest on the projected launch of VA sports betting.

As Hall’s presentation states, state law required the lottery to have draft regulations available for the public on Wednesday. By and large, the lottery met the deadline.

Perhaps the best piece of news Hall shared had more to do with what won’t be in the regulations. Hall stated that VA would not impose a payout cap on operators like Tennessee did earlier this year.

These preliminary regulations include consumer protection protocols, license application forms, parameters for a self-exclusion program and a “Sports Bettor’s Bill of Rights.” That last item is a unique framing of consumer protections, but most of the details are standard to the industry.

For example, one of the document’s provisions put the onus of securing bettors’ identifying information on future operators.

That’s generally true of operators in most states with legal wagering. The framing of these rights could inspire confidence in the regulatory system among Virginians.

The meat of the proposed rules is on the lottery website. However, one pertinent piece of the draft regulations is still missing, though.

Permissible events a big shoe yet to drop

The law already excludes one significant category, which is in-state college sports teams. Virginians will have to wait a few more weeks for answers to further questions.

A preliminary list of permissible events for wagering should be available by Aug. 10.

Among things to watch for when the documents drop are:

  • Will esports be on the list? If so, will there be any qualifiers, like that the majority of competitors must be at least 18 years of age?
  • Will the list include Ukrainian table tennis? This is a hot-button issue because of match-fixing allegations.
  • How about limits on prop bets? For example, will Virginians be able to bet on coin tosses and Gatorade colors?

Virginians should note that until the board votes to approve these regulations, they remain prohibitive. Currently, the board is focused on gathering public comments on the proposals.

VA residents or anyone interested in being a part of the sports wagering industry may submit comments online until Sept. 9.

While the release of these drafts was good news enough, the board had other positive updates. In short, the VA Lottery is quite healthy right now.

Commonwealth is sharing the wealth

As the fiscal year ended on June 30, the board shared an update of its financials. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the VA Lottery exceeded its goals.

From July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, the lottery amassed over $2.1 billion in sales. It dispersed more than $587 million to public schools. The lottery also surpassed its goal for administrative expenses by half a percent, coming in at just 5.5% of revenue.

Because of that success, the lottery board has even higher ambitions for the fiscal year 2020-21. It expects to do $2.4 billion in sales, distribute $635 million to schools and cut administrative costs by half a percent.

There’s reason to believe that the sales figure may be a bit on the conservative side, however. The Virginia iLottery launched at the beginning of this month and, so far, it’s been wildly successful.

In its first two weeks, the lottery’s online products have seen around $16 million in activity, spread among over 29,000 players. Almost half of those players were new to the lottery’s digital properties.

Instant win tickets have been the most popular so far, accounting for over $2 million in gross revenue and 94% of the traffic. While there are reasons to believe the initial boom may not last, the lottery couldn’t have asked for a better start.

If online sports wagering gets off to a similarly strong kickoff early next year, it will indeed be a record-breaking year for the lottery. So far, everything seems to be going according to plan.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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