Virginia Lottery approves sports betting rules, leaves Olympics ban intact

(NBC12)

The Virginia Lottery Board voted Tuesday to approve the state’s first-ever regulations on sports betting, making some changes in response to feedback from big gambling platforms but maintaining a ban on wagers involving the Olympic Games.

Tuesday’s move clears the way for the state to begin accepting applications from sports betting operators in mid-October ahead of an anticipated launch in early 2021. Sports betting is expected to begin through online platforms and mobile apps, though it could eventually expand to brick-and-mortar casinos planned in the state.

After the General Assembly voted to legalize sports betting earlier this year, the Lottery was tasked with creating a detailed set of regulations for how the growing industry will function in Virginia.

“Creating a regulatory structure for sports betting within the aggressive timeline that was mandated by the legislature consumed a lot of bandwidth over the summer,” Lottery Executive Director Kevin Hall said at Tuesday’s meeting. “And today’s board action will represent a really significant step forward.”

The gambling industry took issue with some elements of Virginia’s proposed rules, including the Olympics ban.

The sports betting law passed in Virginia explicitly bans wagering on college sports games involving Virginia teams and youth sports. The rule prohibiting betting on sports involving athletes under 18 created problems with Olympic events, according to Lottery officials.

“Because a lot of Olympic events may include minors, we were concerned about allowing betting on such events,” said Gina Smith, the Lottery’s deputy director for gaming compliance.

Smith said the Lottery saw “no way” to verify the age of every Olympic participant, but she suggested the General Assembly could modify the law to allow Olympics betting before the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The Lottery made several modifications to its regulations in response to comments submitted by sports betting interests like DraftKings, FanDuel and Penn National Gaming.

“To me it seems like we’ve struck a good balance between regulating and allowing the business to operate, which is not easy,” said Lottery Board Chairman Ferhan Hamid.

The changes to the regulations include:

• Softening a rule requiring that betting platforms submit all advertising materials to the Lottery for advance approval. The final regulation requires betting platforms to make their advertising and marketing materials available to the Lottery upon request.

• Modifying a rule requiring the apps to show detailed real-time information on the total handle and how odds were calculated for each wager. The revised rule only requires apps to show the amount wagered and the odds “at which the wager is offered.” Gambling companies had raised concerns that requiring apps to show detailed math behind each bet would overwhelm users’ screens and cause performance slowdowns.

• Eliminating a requirement allowing gamblers to put themselves on a self-exclusion list through the apps themselves and giving the Lottery responsibility for maintaining a central list of people who want to ban themselves from gambling. The platforms had argued it would be unwise for people with gambling problems to have to sign into a gambling app to ban themselves.