Virginia lawmakers approve sports betting legislation

Lawmakers in Virginia have passed a bill that could legalize casino gambling and sports betting in the state.

Over the weekend, lawmakers voted to pass Substitute Bill 1126. The bill was successful in the house with a vote of 64-33. The Senate also approved the bill with a vote of 30-10.

Now it is up to Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam, to sign the bill into law. If the bill is signed into law a local referendum will be held in each city where casino gambling could be offered.

Although the bill would legalize casino gambling, it would limit the activity to cities that have faced a 7% decline in population between 1990 and 2016, an unemployment rate of at least 4% and a poverty rate of 20%.

The bill would also authorize federally recognized tribes to operate tribal gambling establishments in cities with a population of at least 200,000 where 24% of all real estate is exempt from local property tax.

Each of the eligible cities would receive one casino license that will allow a venue to offer casino gambling.

The bill states that, “Casino gaming means baccarat, blackjack, twenty-one, poker, craps, dice, slot machines, sports betting, roulette wheels, Klondike tables, punchboards, faro layouts, keno layouts, numbers tickets, push cards, jar tickets, pull tabs, online gaming, and any other activity that is authorized by the Board as a wagering game or device under Chapter 41.”

The bill limits sports betting to land-based gambling venues and does not contain any provisions for online sports betting.

Gambling in Virginia would be overseen by the Virginia Lottery Board and licensed casinos would be required to pay a tax rate between 13% and 15% of gross revenue.

If Northam signs the bill, the Virginia Lottery will have until January 2020 to begin drafting rules and regulations for gambling in Virginia. The regulator will be required to publish a completed list by 20 June 2020.

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