Online sports betting licenses could be approved in Virginia within the next few weeks. Virginia Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall said, “If a licensee is ready to go, some of them could be up and running by the Super Bowl. That’s a good opportunity. It’s the biggest thing on the sports calendar all year, so we might be able to launch with a bang.” Hall said the lottery has received 25 applications for 12 licenses.
Under the law passed last year, wagers could be made on pre-game and in-game professional sports, and pre-game bets could be placed on collegiate sports outside of Virginia.
He noted sports betting could produce up to $5 million in the first year, then double each year thereafter. The state could receive up to $50 million in tax revenue if all 12 licenses are filled, which he estimated would occur within four to five years.
Hall said online sports wagering is nothing new but legalizing it would add safety and regulatory measures, like verifying the age, identity and location of players, making sure they’re physically located in Virginia. Also, problem gambling services would be available. “The priority is here in Virginia, sports betting is offered in a safe and responsible way. There will be strong consumer protections, guardrails that prevent underage gambling, procedures and audits to make sure there’s no criminal activity like money laundering or tax evasion. It’s being done successfully in other states so we can learn from their experiences,” Hall said.
Also in Virginia, the city of Richmond, Virginia announced it is now accepting proposals for a casino resort. Applications will be due by 3 p.m., February 22, 2021. A public comment period and consultations with third-party experts will occur after that. In November, a voter referendum will be required, as well as the selection of a preferred casino operator and location. At least three casino operators have indicated they’re interested in developing a casino resort in Richmond: Colonial Downs Group, Urban One Inc. and the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, which has proposed a $350 million facility.
Richmond is one of five cities authorized to have a casino resort in legislation signed by Governor Ralph Northam in early 2020. Voters in the other four locations–Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth—overwhelmingly approved casino resorts in their cities in last month’s election. State officials estimate the five venues could generate $262 million in annual tax revenue.
Mayor Levar Stoney commented, “This competitive selection process will allow us to find the best opportunity for Richmond, an economic development project that includes well-paying jobs and workforce training opportunities. Ultimately, the operator selected for this project must bring to the table the economic opportunity and community benefits voters will support in November.”
Richmond Director of Economic Development Leonard Sledge added the project could benefit the city “at the sole expense” of the casino operator. “Subjecting potential operators to a robust competitive review process ensures that the city can make the most of this opportunity on behalf of its residents,” he said. Stoney spokesman Sam Schwarzkopf confirmed, “The casino operator will be solely responsible for all costs associated with designing, building, opening and operating the resort casino.”
Results from a survey released earlier this month indicate the public wants to know how the casino resort applicants will support minority owned business enterprise and improve surrounding businesses and public infrastructure. In addition, applicants are being asked to submit drawings of their proposed venue, details about its size and revenue projections, as well as community engagement plans and chow they would address adverse impacts on the public, such as gentrification, traffic congestion and crime.