Virginia set for January sports betting bill

Sports wagering could be approved as early as July 2019


Marcus Simon, Delegate for Virginia's 53rd District, has confirmed that he plans to press ahead with introducing a new sports betting bill in the US state after acknowledging “appetite” for legislative change.

Simon is hoping to table the bill in January to coincide with the start of Virginia’s legislative session for 2019.

Simon told Fox 5 DC that given the proximity of the $1.4bn MGM National Harbor casino just minutes north in Maryland, it made sense for Virginia to attempt to claw back some of the dollars that leave the state.

“We already see a lot of our residents’ dollars go across the river to MGM. We lose out on a lot of opportunities to capture some of that revenue,” Simon said.

“I think there is an appetite for this. I think there is certainly a revenue opportunity in Virginia.”

Although there are no casinos in Virginia, Simon is hopeful of identifying alternative solutions.

“I think you can probably find a way to combine sportsbooks with the existing horse racing and off-track betting that exists, and there is probably a way to facilitate online sports gaming as well,” said Simon, who added that his bill would legalise sports betting from next July.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the folks in the General Assembly decide it needs another year of study so we can figure out how it might work. That said, I want to get the process started.”

However, it remains unclear whether sports wagering in Virginia could be introduced without significant political opposition.

Although Simon reportedly has the support of councilmembers and Mayor Muriel Bowser, Governor Ralph Northam has not yet revealed his hand on the issue.

“Governor Northam believes any future proposal to expand sports gaming here in Virginia should be considered with the input of the General Assembly and the communities that will be impacted,” the Governor’s spokesperson, Ofirah Yheskel, said.

Neighbouring states currently face a similar race against time to legalise sports betting before losing out.

Last month, Washington, DC council member Jack Evans urged lawmakers in the US capital to press ahead with introducing regulated sports betting as soon as possible – or miss out on the financial benefits.

“The city should take advantage of our ability to act before the Maryland or Virginia legislatures to create a thriving sports betting market, which will attract consumers to the District and generate revenue for District residents,” Evans said.