Virginia Says Wait Until Next Year for In-State College Sports Betting

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The sun rises behind the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia. Photo by Ryan M. Kelly / AFP

Virginia’s sports betting law, as presently constituted, prohibits betting on in-state college games. However, a new piece of legislation to rescind that clause has been tabled until 2025.

Let’s explore this recent endeavor and examine its potential implications for online sportsbooks.

Not Just Yet

Virginia Senate Bill 124 would allow for in-state sports betting on colleges or universities but that discussion will be postponed for next year. That is because the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee voted 14-0 in favor of tabling the bill until 2025 rather than considering it during this legislative session.

It was a rather surprising setback considering the bill, sponsored by Senator Schuyler T. VanValkenburg early in January, seemed to be getting support. Bettors are currently banned from betting on teams like the Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Liberty Flames and James Madison Dukes.

This prohibition requires those in Virginia who want to bet on those games to cross state lines and bet in another jurisdiction that offers them on their betting menus. Or, bettors can bet on those teams with offshore betting sites or a local bookie, taking potential tax revenues away from Old Dominion.

“Virginia folks are already gambling on (collegiate) sports. They’re doing it illegally. They’re doing it through friends in other states,“ said VanValkenburg.

Balancing Priorities

While some point to the additional revenues to be gained from allowing in-state teams to be listed on the state’s betting offerings, VanValkenburg feels as though the benefits of having all gambling regulated by the state is a boom for consumer protection and will work towards diminishing the unregulated betting avenues.

“It’s better to bring it under a regulatory framework where we can properly monitor what’s happening,” VanValkenburg said.

“That’s (revenue) a secondary benefit in this case,” VanValkenburg said. “To be honest, I would be okay with our general fund not depending on gambling at all. For me, it’s mostly about the regulation and monitoring component of it.”

All Opposed Say Aye

Not everyone is in favor of overturning the ban on in-state college sports betting in Virginia.

The primary reason is that some experts and legislators fear collegiate athletes will be more prone to harassment and possible bribery to “fix” games if it is allowed in the state in which they play.

Carolyn Hawley, president of the nonprofit Virginia Council on Problem Gambling, stated, “A lot of dialogue is about the harm to student-athletes, that being in their own state places more risk for illegal natures and sabotaging of games.”

However, Dustin Gouker, a sports betting industry analyst, said, “Trying to manipulate a college game for betting purposes is pretty hard. If there was a large wager, those things raise red flags in today’s regulated market.”

“There’s so many ways to wager right now on colleges that carving them out from Virginia sportsbooks doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense,” Gouker added.

Hawley also pointed out that the possibility of problem gambling remains at the forefront, saying, “There’s a misconception in the general population that there is less risk associated with gambling. And that’s just not the case. So, we have to educate people that this is a highly addictive behavior.”