The state of Virginia is all set to welcome the new year by launching its mobile sports betting industry as early as January 2021. Initially, 12 sports betting operators are expected to allow taking wagers online in January. However, no one knows the exact number.

The Virginia Lottery said last month it had received 25 applications from operators seeking a sports wagering license in the Commonwealth. However, the Lottery, which is responsible for issuing applications and regulating sports betting, did not disclose the brand names. The state lottery had a 90-day period to consider and finalize the applications, meaning the period would end mid-January. Once the launch is official, the Mother of States estimates nearly $400 million in revenue in 2021.

While commenting on the anticipated launch, Virginia Lottery Executive Director, Kevin Hall, said the state’s first legally wagered sports bet is imminent. He hailed the high level of interest by sports betting operators, which he said validates the state’s efforts to strike an appropriate balance in its regulatory program for regulated sports betting. Hall revealed to the AP news agency that mobile sports betting sites will go online in time for the Super Bowl, kicking-off on February 7.

How Did We Reach Here?

Virginia lawmakers passed two major gaming bills in 2019: one authorizing legal sports betting and another legalizing casinos. However, sports betting will precede casino gambling in the state. The arrival of casinos in the four cities that approved their construction by voters in last month’s referendums will take a few years before launch. Yet, Virginia online sports betting sites are set to launch as early as January.

The state lottery opened its application period on October 15, all the way through to Halloween. Though Lottery officials have been tight-lipped regarding the internal process, it was finally revealed last month that the lottery received 25 sports betting applications. According to the law, the lottery must pick a minimum of four and a maximum of 12 sportsbook operators.

However, Hall expressed hope that Virginia will approve more than 12 applications as the law allows preference to professional sport organizations based in Virginia. So, any applications submitted by the DC United soccer franchise, Washington NFL football team, and NASAR could be approved in excess of the 12-operator cap.

The Lottery Keeps its Cards Close to Chest

It is interesting to note that the entire operation ahead of the state lottery is shrouded in mystery regarding its sports betting launch. No one knows which sportsbook operators have been approved or denied licenses in Virginia. There have been no promotions for sign-up bonuses by sportsbooks, nor have been any leaks on who’s in or who isn’t.

Still, the lottery has made it known it will tax operators at 15%. The amount will go into the general funds, a deviation from the general trend of other states who are mostly using sports betting revenue for education. In the first year, Virginia is projected to raise between $4 million to $5 million in taxes but is expected to grow exponentially to hit north of $50 million once the market matures.

Virginia Will See An Online-Only Launch

Virginia will follow neighboring Tennessee in initially launching only online sports betting. There will be no land-based sportsbooks in the Mother of States, and only digital options are allowed under state law. However, wagers are not allowed on games involving Virginia colleges, nor any bets will be allowed on the Olympics.

Before Virginia’s digital-only launch, Tennessee is the only state in the US that saw an online-only launch when it took its first wager on November 1, 2020. Like Tennessee, Virginia also does not have any brick-and-mortar casinos. However, that will change in a few years as four commercial casinos are given the go-ahead and are under-construction in Portsmouth, Bristol, Norfolk, and Danville. Once these venues are open, Virginia will transition to providing both retail and online sports betting options for its residents.

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