Michigan and Virginia look set to prepare the way for several other states to follow in 2021 as they prepare to both launch online sportsbooks. January 2021 is set to be a big month for both states, although the two states will both see it a little differently. Michigan is perhaps a little behind schedule for legal online sports wagering’s launch, while Virginia is way ahead of schedule after the state’s lawmakers legalized the practice only a very short 8 months ago.
Both states have already or are accepting applications for online sports betting operators. Virginia’s state gaming regulator, the Virginia Lottery, is reviewing the applications of 25 online operators, but has kept a steady silence on which operators have already applied.
Michigan, on the other hand, quite publicly announced recently that 15 provisional online betting operator licenses were issued to the providers and named all 15 including William Hill Sports Book, FanDuel Sportsbook, BetMGM, DraftKings, Barstool Sportsbook, PointsBet, SugarHouse Sports, Unibet and Fox Bet.
Michigan Could be Set to go first – Mid-January
Michigan appears set to beat Virginia to the punch and possibly launch as early as mid-January, however, there’s much conjecture as to how exactly that may play out. Industry insiders are split if the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) will launch multiple operators in one swoop just as Colorado and Tennessee both did earlier this year, or if they roll out operators gradually.
Experts do agree, however, that Michigan sports betting will be ready in time for the conclusion of the NFL post-season and the NFC and AFC Championship Games on the weekend of January 24.
Virginia Should be ready for launch before the Super Bowl
Industry experts all agree that Virginia has exceeded expectations in preparing to launch its online sports betting sites so quickly. In a state without legal land-based casinos or card rooms and the associated gambling heritage, Virginia perhaps more closely resembled casino-less Tennessee than it did casino-heavy New Jersey, Nevada or Pennsylvania in heading out on its legal sports betting adventure. It could be argued that the Mountain State of Virginia is unencumbered by links to the past and was able to streamline its decision-making process, just as happened in Tennessee.
The state regulator, the Virginia Lottery, announced recently that there has been no update since the November 17 committee meeting announcing it had 25 operators apply for the 12 available online sportsbook licenses. It will still not release the names of operators who have applied for licenses.
According to the Mountain State’s law, the Virginia Lottery can award 12 mobile/online licenses, in addition to licenses attached to professional sports organizations with facilities within Virginia state lines. Lawmakers and regulators have said that soccer’s MLS team, DC United, and the Washington NFL franchise both having practice facilities in Virginia, fit the bill of a professional sports organization, however, the state’s two NASCAR auto racing tracks at Martinsville and Richmond have not previously been considered for inclusion under the law.
The clarification of that law and how it may apply to the Wynn Bet company’s sponsorship of the Richmond and Martinsville Raceways may eventually determine how many online sports books may eventually launch in Virginia.
No matter how many online sportsbooks finally launch in Virginia, its fully expected that there will be a launch of some sort in time for the biggest sports wagering event of the year, the Super Bowl. Super Bowl LV in 2021 is set for February 7 in Tampa Bay. Our tip, perhaps look for Virginia sports wagering to get underway at least by February 1 (if not before) to iron out any bugs before betting on the big dance begins.