Virginia House and Senate Pass Sports Betting, Lottery Bill
Virginia is likely on its way to become the seventh state to legalize online lottery ticket sales. According to various reports, a bill to legalize online lottery sales has passed in the House and a similar bill has passed in the Senate. The bills will also legalize sports betting in the states.
While there is still a small bit of work left to do before the bill is sent to the Governor, there is reason to believe that online lottery could be legalized by the Spring.
Online Lottery Bills Pass in Both House and Senate
A pair of online lottery and sports betting bills were voted on Monday in Virginia with both easily passing. The first was HB 896 which passed the Virginia House by a margin of 70-27. The other was SB 384 which passed the VA Senate by a margin of 27-12.
Under the bills, online lottery sales would be legalized in Virginia. If passed, Virginia will become the seventh state to regulate online lottery. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and New Hampshire are the other states presently selling lottery tickets online.
Online lottery sales could boom in Virginia due to the popularity of the lottery and the fact that the Virginia Lottery could release slot-like lotto games. Even if such games were not implemented, the expansion of the lottery online will make it much more convenient for players to purchase tickets.
The bills will also regulate sports betting in Virginia, but there are a couple of areas that need to be reconciled before a final bill is sent to Governor Ralph Northam.
Taxes and College Sports Need to Be Resolved
There are two key differences in the two bills, with the biggest being college sports. HB 896 has a ban on collegiate sports betting and in-play betting. SB 384 does not include this ban. Collegiate sports betting could be a sticky issue since there are multiple NCAA D-I schools in the state. UVA, Virginia Tech, Liberty, and the University of Richmond are the primary programs in the state.
The other key difference in the bills is tax rates. HB 896 has a tax rate of 20% on adjusted gross revenue while the tax rate on the Senate bill is only 15%. Fortunately, the rates are not drastically different, so this is likely an easy compromise.
The sports betting issue may be the stickier of the two. Some states such as New Jersey have a ban on collegiate sports betting, while others do not. If we were to predict how this one plays out, expect the ban to remain in place. College sports are not quite the draw in Virginia as they are in other states, so lawmakers may be willing to negotiate on this point.
Time is Of the Essence
Now that both bills have passed their respective chambers, they enter the reconciliation stage. There are other concerns other than the ones raised above, but they are not viewed as deal-breakers. As such, once taxes and collegiate betting is resolved, expect a finalized bill to be confirmed and sent to the Governor’s desk.
Governor Northam seems open to online lottery and sports betting, so many feel that he is likely to pass the bill. However, lawmakers don’t have much time to act. The 2020 legislative session ends on March 7. This gives them about three weeks to finalize the bill. Based on the importance of the bill and the fact it can bring much-needed tax revenue to the state, we predict that lawmakers will make the changes needed and get the bill to the Governor’s desk in time.