The Bulletin

A senator was annoyed by a ‘Virginia is for Bettors’ ad. Now he wants to ban them.

By: - February 10, 2022 5:01 pm
A "Virginia is for Lovers" hat on display in the gift shop at the Virginia Capitol. (Photo by Graham Moomaw)

A “Virginia is for Lovers” hat on display in the gift shop at the Virginia Capitol. (Photo by Graham Moomaw)

Gambling companies that run ads with the slogan “Virginia is for Bettors” could be fined $50,000 under a law proposed by a state senator who says he felt the phrase infringes on the famous tourism slogan “Virginia is for Lovers.”

Sen Tommy Norment, R-James City, said he was inspired to file the bill after hearing a radio ad on a drive to Richmond.

“Frankly, it annoyed me,” Norment told a Senate gambling subcommittee last month. “We’ve spent a lifetime trying to market ‘Virginia is for Lovers.’ I just felt it was trespassing on it.”

The state Senate passed the bill 40-0 this week, and it doesn’t appear to have drawn opposition from casino operators or sports betting companies. 

It was a different story with an earlier draft of the bill, which would have banned gambling interests from using the state’s name entirely. The bill was narrowed, Norment said, after the first draft “got some of the people in the gaming industry all excited.”

Sen. Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City. (2020 Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Norment said lawyers had suggested trademark protections might already prevent gambling ads from playing off the state’s slogan. But he wanted to make it clear the phrase was off-limits.

“I would rather it was out there blatantly rather than requiring people to go and look at the federal code and the trademark and patent registrations,” Norment said.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation has registered “Virginia is for Lovers” as a federal trademark, along with “Virginia is for Wine Lovers,” “Virginia is for Craft Beer Lovers,” and “Virginia is for Film Lovers.”

Similar trademarks sought by non-government groups include: “Virginia is for Hustlers,” “Virginia is for Grubbers,” “Virginia is for Ballers” and “Virginia is for Stoners.”

The bill still needs approval from the House of Delegates and Gov. Glenn Youngkin before it becomes law.

There was little discussion of the bill, beyond one senator jokingly wondering how it might apply to a slightly different arrangement of words.

“Could you say Virginia is for lovers who bet?,” asked Sen. John Bell, D-Loudoun.

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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.