Virginia is on the road to legal online gambling. Last Friday, Governor Ralph Northam signed the Virginia gambling bill known as SB 1126. The bill has gone through a series of legislative revisions for the past three months and finally received approval from the House, Senate, and the Governor.
It’s important to note that SB 1126 does not legalize online gambling, but rather asks the Joint Legislative and Review Commission to complete a detailed casino gaming study in the state. Keep reading to learn more about the complexities of this bill.
- SB 1126 was signed by Governor Ralph Northam
- The bill does not legalize online gambling per se, but sets in motion a casino gaming study in the state.
- The comprehensive study on casino gaming regulations needs to be submitted by December 1, 2019.
A Closer Look at SB 1126
Everything you need to know about this bill up until this moment is that it was pre-filed by Senator L. Louise Lucas on December 2018. This set off the debate and vote process that resulted to this moment, first with the Senate’s favor (30-10), and later on in February, with a House voting session (64-33).
When it first started out, this bill was supposed to extend the existing land-based gambling industry in the state. However, over the course of the proceedings, the bill has additionally come to refer to practices such as sports betting and online gaming.
Online Gambling, Sports Betting, and Poker
These activities have seldom been named explicitly in the wording of the bill, but nonetheless, pave the way for sportsbooks and online gambling platforms becoming legal in Virginia.
Direct proof of this claim is the definition of casino gaming provided in the bill:
“‘Casino gaming’ means baccarat, blackjack, pull tabs, online gaming, and any other activity that is authorized by the Board as a wagering game or device under Chapter 41.”
Ultimately, some claims have been made towards poker establishments as well, especially when interpreting the last part of the definition provided in the recent Virginia gambling law.
Virginia Gambling Bill – A Long Road Ahead
This bill is not yet ready to be implemented into the State’s legislation. In fact, there are three key provisions stipulated before it is officially declared a legal act.
Comprehensive Casino Gaming Study
A Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) is supposed to work on and produce a thorough report on the current gaming laws within the state by December 1, 2019. This report will be provided to the Lottery Board, a decision that has seen this board automatically boost its responsibilities and authority in the industry.
After a thorough analysis, this Board will need to amend, abolish or approve new and existing regulations that would result in changes in the legal gambling industry in Virginia. These legal acts could come to refer to online gaming and sports betting as well, even though they are primarily oriented towards land-based expansion.
Voting Takes Place
The legal regulative should reach its final form by the end of June 2020, as the first licenses are expected to be issued by the start of July. During this application and licensing frame, but no later than Jan 1, 2021, separate cities and jurisdictions that are given extended authority will be able to vote on their local gambling industry state of affairs.
On a final note, the end of 2020 also proclaims the closing date by which the Virginia Legislature should decide whether or not to re-enact the bill.
The Future of Virginia’s Gambling Industry
Even with a strict schedule as this one, and stern compliance to all provisions, the bill’s text is relatively vague. Hence, there is no saying what the result would be even if the bill passes.
Basically, predictions have been made in all three potential directions:
- Addressing sports betting and online gaming along with land-based casinos.
- Discarding one of the two in order to make things easier for the existing industry.
- Completely ignoring either or both of the gambling formats, while only addressing land-based casinos.
If everything goes as planned, Virginia would go from one of the most limited gaming markets in the country to one of the most robust. As legislators go on with the procedure, more information is bound to come to light regarding Virginia’s legal gambling industry in the future.