Many of us will be hoping that 2021 proves to be better than 2020, and for residents in the US state of Virginia who like to bet on sport, the New Year could well have a pleasant beginning as the state moves ahead with the implementation of legal sports betting.
The state legislature signed off on two major gaming bills in 2020. One of them legalized casinos in the state, while the other approved sports betting. Casino fans are likely to face a long wait before the sector launches, but there are realistic plans for Virginia online sportsbooks to launch their mobile versions early in the New Year, possibly in January. A January launch date would also mean that Virginia customers could legally bet on the Super Bowl.
The Virginia Lottery, which is overseeing the new sports betting sector, opened its license application period in the middle of October and ran it to the end of the month. After the closure of the application period, the Lottery officially has 90 days to review the hopeful applicants, which suggests sports betting could be up and running in the state around the middle of January.
So far, there have been no reports on how the process is going, which is in line with the general secrecy that the Lottery has maintained around the application schedule. Last month, however, they did reveal that a total of 25 applications had been received by the closure date at the end of October, which has inevitably led to speculation about the identities of the applicants.
Limited Market Space
Although the total number of applicants is 25, most of those applying will ultimately be disappointed when the final list of licensees is announced. That’s because the new sports betting law in Virginia allows for a market size of more than four but no more than twelve operators. This limited market space includes five licenses that have essentially already been set aside for the state’s casino operators to claim.
That effectively means that there are between four and seven other mobile sports betting licenses to be awarded, and it will be the task of the Lottery’s Executive Director Kevin Hall to make the decision on the optimum number of sports betting operators to create the best balance for Virginia, and to maximize the potential tax revenue.
The Main Contenders
Among those speculated to be in the running for a license are some of the state’s sports franchises, including NASCAR. A NASCAR betting license would presumably be good news for sports betting operator WynnBET, which has recently signed a deal to be the official online sports betting platform for both of the NASCAR tracks in Virginia.
The other contenders are likely to include some well-known companies in the US sports betting sector, including BetMGM, theScoreBet, ZenSports, and DraftKings Sportsbook, while PointsBet has already confirmed that they have lodged an application.
Three of the state’s confirmed casino companies are also likely to be among those to have applied. These are Caesars – whose sportsbook is run by William Hill – Hard Rock and Rush Street, who have a deal with sports betting company BetRivers. – Caesars (William Hill), Hard Rock, and Rush Street (BetRivers) – should get licensed. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe, which runs the casino based in Norfolk, hasn’t yet announced a sports betting partner for their operation.
In addition, FanDuel Sportsbook, US Bookmaking, and Handle 19 all submitted comments during the state’s consultation process prior to the application period. Even if all 11 of these companies applied, however, that would still leave 11 unknown applicants.