DraftKings Becomes Second Sportbook to Launch in Virginia

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Following a surprise launch last week, Virginia sports bettors were extended another option with DraftKings mobile sports betting on Sunday. The Boston-based DraftKings became the second live operator in the state after its rival company FanDuel launched in collaboration with the NFL’s Washington Football Team last Thursday.

The timing for the new mobile betting option couldn’t have been any batter, as it was live for the NFL’s “Championship Weekend”, with the NFC and AFC Championship Games shortly following. More importantly, the DraftKings’ launch was also crucial as it came two weeks before the biggest sports betting event of the year: the Super Bowl.

DraftKings’ co-founder and CEO Jason Robins expressed excitement over the sportsbook launch in Virginia “just in time for Super Bowl”. He said, “We are excited to bring the DraftKings sports betting experience to Virginia with huge betting options for fans.” Robins added that with the company’s customer-first strategy, it hopes to be the sportsbook of choice for state residents who enjoy having skin in the game.

First-Mover Advantage?

FanDuel became the first and only sportsbook operator in Virginia on Thursday when it launched before anyone else, thanks to its deal with Washington Football Team, allowing the company to go live ahead of any other rival, under regulator’s interpretation of state law. However, now accompanied by DraftKings, the two giants could have the upper hand.

The early launch for the two leading US sports betting giants allows them a first-mover advantage, which will surely help both companies assume leadership in Virginia sports betting. Both sportsbook operators have almost a duopoly in the US sports betting market with a majority market share, both in terms of handle and revenue, across the states with regulated sports betting offerings.

To celebrate the launch, DraftKings offered an odds boost around the conference championships games, involving a $50 bet against a touchdown score at even money.

BetMGM and Others to Follow

According to the Virginia Lottery’s website, BetMGM also got approval to launch online sports betting in the Old Dominion. BetMGM will likely launch later this week, but no date has been confirmed. BetMGM, the online sports betting arm of the Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts, is the third-largest digital sports betting operator in the nation after FanDuel and DraftKings.

So far, the Lottery has only issued three licenses of almost twelve available sportsbook operator permits, and against more than two dozen applications. Therefore, we can expect even more online sportsbook to go live in the coming months.

How Have We Reached Here?

The state with the 12th largest population in the US began its legal journey towards sports betting in 2019, but several attempts to launch the industry proved futile last year. Lawmakers eventually gave the green light to the industry by approving HB 896 and SB 384 in 2020. Virginia sports betting was legalized on July 1, 2020, and in September, the Virginia Lottery Board approved the regulation.

In November, The Virginia Lottery said it was reviewing 25 applications for online sports betting licenses against the maximum of 12 available permits. With last week’s launch, Virginia became the 20th state to allow sports betting since the strike down of PASPA in May 2018.

Sportsbooks must pay a $250,000 fee for a license renewable after three-year, and 15% in revenue tax. The law bans betting on in-state colleges, and sportsbook operators must use official league data to settle in-play bets.

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