Sports Betting in the New Commonwealth
The Virginia Lottery in June 2021 will release a draft timeline for implementing legislation and opening the application process for retailers and sportsbooks to receive a license to sell sports betting services in Virginia. Following the release of two sets of draft regulations by the Virginia Lottery and the Virginia Gaming Commission, the lottery released its final draft on Sept. 15, 2021. Both the Draft Regulations and the Final Regulations must be passed by both the House and Senate before implementation. Both the House and Senate voted to support the regulations but were unable to reach a consensus agreement on the differences between the two drafts.
In July, Governor Terry McCauliffe signed into law the “VSAR” or Virginia Sexually offensive Behavior Act. The law makes it illegal for a person to knowingly gamble, in addition to other behaviors, about sex. According to the ” GSSA “no bets, no pays” policy, people are required to gamble in a public facility if they are betting or placing bets on sports. This includes casinos and racetrack pools. On March 6, the Virginia Supreme Court declined to review a ruling that found the law violates the freedom of speech guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The General Assembly also voted in June to enact bills that will regulate online sports betting in Maryland. Two bills were passed, sending the Maryland State Board of Sports and Entertainment to the Maryland governor to administer the application process for licenses. The bills call for a centralized system, which would require a license to sell in Maryland. The General Assembly also voted to require that all licensed sports bettors display the logo on their betting terminals at all times.
In the draft timeframe for implementation, the Maryland Department of Financial Services has tentatively approved a bill that would allow local governments to prohibit sports betting activity in local licensed casinos if the proposed market access laws are adopted. This would exclude the three Maryland counties that have legalized gambling in recent years: Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harrow. The House is expected to take up the bill during its second reading on Thursday, June 8. If it passes the Senate, it goes to Governor Martin O’ Hogan who has indicated that he may sign the measure into law.
Preliminary meetings are scheduled for cities and jurisdictions with new sports betting establishments, including Baltimore, at the start of the year. One proposal calls for an eight-month waiting period before sports books could start offering market access to customers. The Department of Financial Services says it will work with the Maryland Stadium Authority to develop a “comprehensive stadium access agreement.” Preliminary meetings are scheduled for communities across Maryland on or before the start of Early 2021.
Does anyone know what the future holds for Maryland’s regulated sports books? The answer is complicated. The legislature has not yet completed writing the final bill and there are many issues that remain to be resolved between the parties. It appears that the only way to guarantee that all jurisdictions in the state will allow public access to sports books is for the General Assembly to pass a law that would preempt any lawsuit against a book which discriminated against clients. The General Assembly has yet to hear arguments from opponents and supporters of the regulation of sports books in Virginia.
As the Maryland Stadium Authority works out the details of the negotiations for a sports betting platform regulation, there are some things that have become apparent. There is no immediate indication that the Maryland Stadium Authority will be able to secure an eight-month construction permit from the Virginia Department of Transportation for the new stadiums. A spokesman for the authority says that no decision has been made and there is still time for the agency to negotiate an acceptable construction permit with VDOT. The General Assembly may not pass a bill for two months and then have it signed by the Governor before leaving town for the holiday break. For the General Election this fall, Marylanders could be voting on a sports betting platform that may have nothing to do with a new stadium.
If no agreement is made with VDOT, the Maryland Stadium Authority will have to go through the normal application process for obtaining a certificate of occupancy. If no stadium is built in Maryland in the next ten years, Maryland will not be permitted to operate a sports betting platform. This means that any Maryland sportsbooks that do not open in 2021 will not be in operation during that timeframe. The General Election is already underway, so this issue will not likely affect the race for Governor.