Big Name Sportsbooks Show Interest in Virginia

Sports betting has been a long time coming in Virginia, but the pace seems to be picking up as the deadline for applications to operate in the state draws near.

The Virginia Lottery finally approved regulations for sports betting following a consultation period that came to an end in early September. These regulations were subsequently the subject of another consultation period, with applications to operate in Virginia opening in the middle of October. Interested companies have until October 31 to make their application, and regulators have been given a tight time scale of 90 days to decide on all of the applications.

That could mean, assuming that there are no further delays, sports betting fans in the state will be able to bet on the NFL playoffs, including the Superbowl, a huge betting day around the world.

Big Name Attention

There are twelve online sportsbook licenses up for grabs, although five of them are likely to go to casino operators based within Virginia, which leaves the Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall with the difficult task of picking from among the applicants for the remaining seven spots.

Based on the big names that submitted opinions to the consultation process, that looks like being an extremely competitive process. BetMGM, William Hill, FanDuel, DraftKings, Penn Interactive, BetRivers, and Hard Rock all showed interest, although William Hill is likely to earn one of the casino licenses, as it is now part of the Caesars group. Other sportsbooks may look into partnering with casinos, including one of the hopeful casino operators, the Pamunkey Nation.

Regulatory Wrangling

And although the process towards a functioning Virginia sports betting sector is clearly laid out, there may yet be changes to some of the details around how that industry will operate. The Virginia Lottery will certainly have plenty to consider, based on the consultations.

A big issue for the regulators is access to betting data on the part of the professional sports leagues. The NBA, MLB, and PGA Tour issued a joint response, arguing for sports governing bodies to have access to sports data without restrictions. Currently, the regulations state that the Executive Director has to give approval before the data is released, while the governing bodies must also be licensed, and the leagues have been vocal in their opposition to both propositions.

Advertising is a big issue for some of the sportsbooks including Penn National and Score Bet, who want the removal of a requirement for the Executive Director to approve all advertising, arguing that this would be unnecessarily restrictive, particularly in the case of topical advertising campaigns.

The big sportsbooks have also voiced their opposition to some of the proposed responsible gambling measures. Some operators are opposed to the rule that would require them to honor requests seeking to limit or even ban customers, submitted by third parties. In addition, Caesars argued that customers should take personal responsibility for their gambling decisions, even those with a recognized gambling problem, as this was part of the ‘recovery process.’ It seems unlikely, given the widespread concern about problem gambling, that this argument will gain much traction. 

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