Three Virginia Betting Bills Move Forward, Wagering On In-State College Sports Among Them

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Virginia sports betting had a solid first year, but that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from trying to amend how gambling takes place in the commonwealth. 

Yesterday, the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee took up three pieces of legislation aimed at how gaming is marketed, where it may take place, and on what events.

Senate Bill 96, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, bars the use of an iconic phrase in gambling promotions.

Senate Bill 576 allows for bets to be placed on in-state collegiate events.

And Senate Bill 203 allows for the city of Petersburg to have an opportunity to approve a casino referendum. Petersburg would replace Richmond as the fifth location for a casino under state law. 

All three bills now go to other committees for consideration before a full Senate vote. 

Virginia Is Not For Bettors

“Virginia is for lovers” has been the state’s tourism slogan since 1969.  Norment, a Republican, wants to make sure it is not used to promote gambling.  

His bill, which passed the committee 13-0, would bar use of the phrase “Virginia is for bettors” on marketing related to sports betting or any other type of gambling. 

It now goes before the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

In-State College Bets Eyed

State Sen. T. Montgomery Mason, a Democrat, sponsored SB 576 because he wants to bring sports betting out of the shadows. 

During the hearing, he said while the added revenue that would come from allowing in-state collegiate bets is of minor importance, he wants to make sure any gambling already happening is done legally. He does not like that some wagering, particularly on college sports, is being conducted “behind closed doors.”

There are 14 Division 1 colleges and universities in the state. Among events of high interest to bettors, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech have a long-standing football rivalry. The game is played annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Also, the Capital City Classic, a basketball game played between the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, took place last weekend, with VCU beating Richmond 64-62.

Mason made clear he’s aware illegal bets are being placed on these games and others. He offered those who disagreed the chance to come forward. 

“I’d like to see you raise your hand and come to the lectern,” he told the committee. 

No one commented. 

The legislation passed 11-4, and was likewise been forwarded to the Finance Committee for consideration.

It faces an uncertain future, however. House Bill 1127, companion legislation in the House of Delegates, died in committee earlier this week.

New Casino In Petersburg

When Virginia lawmakers approved sports betting, they offered several cities throughout the state the chance to open casinos.  Voters in four smaller cities — Danville, Bristol, Portsmouth, and Norfolk — overwhelmingly approved their city’s casino plans in 2020. 

But when it was Richmond’s turn in 2021, voters narrowly rejected the chance, by less than 1,500 votes.

State Sen. Joe Morrissey, a Democrat who represents portions of nearby Petersburg, wants his district to get a chance. SB 203 would let the majority-minority city just south of Richmond have a referendum on the issue. Should it pass, it would take the fifth spot. 

SB 203 passed 15-0. It also goes before the Senate Finance, as well as also the Senate Appropriations Committee for review. 

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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