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Virginia Lawmakers Pass Two Sports Betting Bills

Casino Gaming Bill Also Passed By House And Senate Committee

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Two separate sports bills passed both chambers of the Virginia legislature Monday.

The Senate passed SB 384 by a 27-12 margin, while the House passed HB 896 by a vote of 69-29. Both bills would legalize sports betting on collegiate and professional athletic events for those 21 and older, but there are slight differences between the two bills.

The Senate bill calls for a 15 percent tax rate on gross revenue, while the competing bill wants a 20 percent tax. The House version is proposing a ban on betting on college sports involving Virginia schools and would not allow in-game betting on college sports, but the Senate bill doesn’t have that carve-out.

Finally, in what seems like an effort to appease Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, the House bill would allow professional sports teams to offer sports betting in the stadium. The Senate bill had a slightly different take by allowing sports betting kiosks only in stadiums that have yet to be built.

Snyder was lobbying Maryland lawmakers at the end of last month to allow his franchise to obtain a gambling license for a proposed new stadium in Maryland. Virginia lawmakers are carving out legislation that would give Snyder the opportunity to move his franchise from FedEx field in Maryland, to a new site in Virginia.

Virginia was once a state with no real gambling of any substance outside of a state lottery, but the landscape is quickly changing. Not only have both chambers have passed their own sports betting bill, and will have to compromise on a final piece of legislation for, but both are in the process of passing casino bills.

The House passed HB 4, earlier today, which would allow casino gambling in five “economically depressed cities,” according to the Bristol Herald Courier. It passed by a 61-33 vote and would allow the citizens of Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond to vote on whether a casino comes to their city.

The Senate is voting on SB 36 later today, which is a similar bill that would allow casino gambling in Portsmouth and Norfolk. The Senate bill cleared its Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee last Thursday after revising its tax structure.

The Senate would tax casinos 27 percent on the first $150 million of gross gaming revenue, 31 percent between $150 million and $300 million, and 40 percent on anything above $300 million.

With the General Assembly set to adjourn on March 8, all of these bills will be finalized, voted on, and likely sent to the Governor’s desk soon.