Virginia lawmakers announce proposals to legalize sports betting

State Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City.

State Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, said Tuesday he’ll introduce legislation to legalize sports betting in Virginia as part of a plan he says would reduce tuition at the state’s community colleges.

A few hours later, Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, announced his own sports betting proposal, floating a 15 percent tax on revenue that he estimated would bring in $41 million a year to fund research at state universities.

The flurry of legislative interest follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that struck down a federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada.

“Sports gaming is going to be legal across the United States,” Petersen said in a statement. “There is no reason to keep it illegal, when our neighboring states are already moving to legalize. We should keep that business in Virginia, along with the tax revenue.”

Petersen says that under his proposal, which he’s calling the “Virginia Sports Gaming Tuition Reduction Act,” localities would have to hold a referendum before issuing licenses and that tax revenue would be split between local governments and the state’s community college system.

He said college sports would be excluded from gambling under the plan.

Sickles’ legislation bans betting on Virginia colleges and universities but “allows wagering on collegiate athletic tournaments in the commonwealth if allowed by the sponsoring league.”

Sickles proposes giving the state lottery regulatory oversight of the gambling expansion, authorizing them to license up to five sports betting operators.

“This legislation provides a framework for an open, transparent and responsible market for legal sports betting,” Sickles said in a statement. “It will protect consumers while generating revenue to allow Virginia to compete for major research projects that create jobs and help to diversify our economy away from over-reliance on federal spending.”

The proposals are one of many gambling related issues the General Assembly is likely to take up when it meets in January, with more than a dozen lobbyists registering to represent gaming interests.