Virginia online casinos have long been a twinkle in the eye of commonwealth bettors. In truth, it could be quite some time before VA online casinos become a reality. However, there’s one important factor that could spur faster progress: North Carolina.
Virginia and its neighbor to the south are locked in competition when it comes to gambling. Currently, Virginia is leading the race with its new casinos and years-old sports betting market. Online casinos could turn the tide for North Carolina, bringing new revenue to the state and poaching business from Virginia.
Retail casinos have Virginia’s attention right now
One would think the success of Virginia sports betting would spur lawmakers to legalize online casinos. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. There’s no real effort in the state to legalize online casinos. Ditto North Carolina, which could probably reap even greater benefits than Virginia if it was to allow its citizens to play table games and slots online.
Right now, it’s silence on the legislative front from Virginia lawmakers. It makes some sense considering recent developments. All eyes have been on Virginia’s newest commercial casinos, such as the temporary Caesars and Hard Rock properties, plus Rivers Portsmouth.
Also, with sports betting available online in Virginia, the state has been raking in the cash. VA casinos brought in $35 million in April. Sportsbooks in the state made $47.6 million in March.
Those numbers put Virginia’s slow approach in perspective. While the state would undeniably benefit from Virginia online casinos, its existing gambling infrastructure is thriving.
North Carolina’s potential encroachment on Virginia’s lead could change that, and fast.
Sports betting a priority for North Carolina at this time
Sports betting is the talk in North Carolina. In the state Senate, HB 347 was amended to authorize in-person betting at certain locations. Most of those locations are public venues owned, operated by, or otherwise associated with professional sports teams. The state Senate approved the bill, so it now goes back to the House for concurrence on the amended elements of the bill.
You’ll notice there was no mention of online casinos in the paragraph above. North Carolina is laser-focused on playing catchup with sports betting. The question of online casinos has yet to make an appearance in the Legislature.
Like its northern neighbor, NC isn’t making any great strides right now toward legalizing online casinos.
Why would NC and VA be interested in online casinos?
The main reason why Virginia and North Carolina should be eyeing online casinos is money. Online casinos add a significant revenue stream to states that offer them. Look at a few legal markets as examples:
- West Virginia online casino revenue, April 2023: $12.1 million
- New Jersey online casino revenue, April 2023: $158.9 million
- Michigan online casino revenue, April 2023: $159.4 million
- Pennsylvania online casino revenue, April 2023: $167.2 million
Keep in mind that various factors impact these figures: the number of online casinos, population, and various other rules and regulations. Still, both Virginia and North Carolina should look to those states as examples. More revenue can benefit a state in a variety of ways.
Tax rates and licensing fees vary, but the four states listed above generally require at least a 15% tax on gambling revenue plus hefty licensing fees and renewal charges. VA and NC could look to existing models when building their own tax framework for online casinos.
Taxes are the biggest incentive for each state to stay ahead of the other. PlayVirginia recently outlined North Carolina’s concerns over casinos being built in Virginia along the border with North Carolina. NC bettors who cross the border to gamble are benefitting Virginians rather than their home state. One study estimated the loss revenue could exceed $250 million a year once all of the Virginia casinos are built.
North Carolina beating Virginia to the punch on online casinos could give the state a windfall of millions of dollars. To avoid such losses, or gains by the other, each state has incentive to legalize before the other.
Less important is the fact that existing sportsbook operators are an easy in for online casinos. Most online sportsbook companies also offer online casinos. Operators like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM already offer sports betting in Virginia. They’d still need to apply for licensing if the state legalized online casinos, but an existing relationship with the Virginia Lottery would make the process much smoother than in NC.
North Carolina, if and when it launches sports betting, could reap the same benefit.
Virginia has the edge in this slow-motion race
Virginia has the edge when it comes to legalizing online casinos. The state has a strong sports betting market and new casinos under construction.
Virginia also knows what it takes to legalize and regulate a new form of online gambling.
North Carolina is just now working on approving online sportsbooks. It’s almost sure to lag behind its northern neighbor in legalizing online casinos.