Virginia Considering New Bill to Allow In-State College Sports Betting

Grant Mitchell
By:
Grant Mitchell
01/15/2024
Legal
Mobile Phone Betting

Highlights

  • Sports betting is legal in Virginia, but betting on in-state colleges and universities is not
  • One lawmaker argued that bettors already wager against VA schools when betting on tournament results
  • Student-athletes should be less likely to accept bribes since they can profit from NIL

Virginia sports betting laws do not allow sportsbooks to accept bets on in-state colleges and universities—that could be changing thanks to a new bill in the state government.

Senate Bill 124, presented on Wednesday, January 10, would allow both in-state residents and travelers to place wagers at legal sportsbooks on games involving local schools. That includes popular teams such as Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, James Madison University, and more. 

Lawmakers previously erred on the side of caution to protect athletes from harassment and the integrity of the sports from nefarious interference. However, discussions regarding a change to the current gambling laws are expected to soon commence.

Protecting players and sports 

Sports betting was legalized in Virginia in 2021. It didn’t take long for the booming industry to become an overwhelming success, with the state just posting a monthly record total $639 million handle in November 2023.

Top operators such as FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars, and others are legal and live inside state lines. But despite the sportsbooks offering coverage and betting lines for teams and leagues across the globe, the potential addition of in-state schools could be one of the biggest developments within the local market.

Sen. Schuyler VanValkenburg, a Democrat representing Henrico, said that legalizing gambling on Virginia schools is the correct option for lawmakers since gamblers are already betting on these teams, just with illegal bookies. 

“You can ban [betting on in-state schools and universities], but people are still going to do it,” said VanValkenburg. “The fear that this is going to corrupt or put pressure on Virginia athletes— that’s already there. We’re already living in that world.” 

The unfortunate truth is that VanValkenburg is correct. Many student-athletes and coaches have undergone an increase in abuse since gambling was legalized. 

Angry gamblers have become quick to lash out at athletes they view as underperforming, particularly when their on-court performances don’t match their bet slips.

Del. Mark Sickles, a Fairfax Democrat, also warned in 2020 that student-athletes could find ways to bet on their games and purposefully alter the outcomes of those games to make money. However, the NCAA prohibits student-athletes from betting on games and has launched several major investigations into illegal gambling over recent years.

Legal arguments  

An important distinction of the proposed bill is that it would not allow for prop betting involving players at Virginia colleges. That would help protect the players from the harassment that has plagued athletes in other states where prop betting is legal.

Student-athletes were also recently allowed to profit off of name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals, which reduces the motivation for many athletes to accept bribes from external sources to interfere with the usual result of games.

One of the main arguments VanValkenburg is using to support his campaign for in-state college sports betting is that legal sports betting sites already allow users to bet against Virginia Tech, UVA, and other VA schools in tournaments.

For example, a fan of college basketball betting from Arlington, VA, could log into their mobile sportsbook app and put down a wager on Duke to win the ACC men’s basketball tournament. 

Depending on the way the bracket unfolds, Duke could face both VT and UVA in their quest for the conference championship, meaning that the user will have effectively bet on a game involving an in-state school twice. 

However, that same user could not bet on VT or UVA to win the conference tournament.

“People are still gambling on Virginia athletes legally when they gamble on other teams,” VanValkenburg said.

A full list of Division-I colleges and universities in Virginia is listed below.

  • George Mason University
  • Hampton University
  • James Madison University
  • Liberty University
  • Longwood University
  • Norfolk State University
  • Old Dominion University
  • Radford University
  • Richmond University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • University of Virginia
  • Virginia Military Institute
  • Virginia Tech
  • William & Mary

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.