Virginia had been on record as announcing it was on course to launch its online sports betting industry before the Super Bowl. However, what no-one expected was that Virginia would launch more than 2 weeks earlier than anticipated.
The state gaming regulator, the Virginia Lottery kept its cards close to its chest firstly announcing last week that the launch was ‘imminent’ and later with another tweet, ‘coming soon’. It came as quite a shock that FanDuel went live in Virginia on Thursday, January 21 2021 around 2pm, making Virginia just the second state after trend-setting Tennessee to have an exclusively online sports wagering industry.
FanDuel – Virginia first online sportsbook to launch
FanDuel Sportsbook was first out of the gate in Virginia and even that launch was shrouded in controversary. The sportsbook launch followed a day of confusion where FanDuel’s Twitter feed excitedly announced that the online sportsbook would be “LIVE in VA in less than 24 hrs,” only to change that announcement just a matter of minutes later to “launch coming soon”, then silence. Neither FanDuel or the Virginia Lottery has made any comment since on the ‘mystery launch’.
Its feels like an odd situation, as usually most legal online sports betting states tend to offer bettors a simultaneous launch of a selection of online sportsbooks to ensure that no one operator gets a jump on the others in competitive advantage. Last November, the Virginia Lottery announced that it had gathered 25 applications for a maximum 12 online sports betting licenses, however, FanDuel jumped the queue in receiving its Virginia green light.
It is widely believed that FanDuel could have well received some level of preferential treatment on the back of its partnership with Washington’s NFL (formerly known as the Redskins). Virginia Sports Betting Law allows for ‘substantial and preferred consideration’ for major sports franchises that pay in excess of $200 million in state taxes each year.
The situation was later clarified by Virginia Lottery spokesperson, John Hagerty, who also went on to say that Virginians will have more than one online sportsbook by the time that Super Bowl LV ticks around on February 7;
“The first mobile sports betting permit has been awarded to FanDuel through its partnership with the Washington Football Team, which was granted “substantial and preferred consideration” by the Virginia General Assembly. Decisions on additional permit awards are imminent, and we anticipate more than one sportsbook will be in position to begin accepting legal wagers from Virginians in time for the Super Bowl on February 7th” Hagerty said.
Soon after Hagerty’s announcement for the Virginia Lottery, DraftKings made their online sportsbook launch in Virginia, just in time for NFL championship games on the weekend of January 23-24.
Which 10 sportsbooks will complete the final field of 12 in Virginia?
The Virginia Lottery will eventually award 10 more online sports betting licenses. According the industry sources, there are 8 more companies that either definitely applied for Virginia sports licenses or expressed an interest;
At the time of writing, third-largest online operator in the nation, BetMGM, was set to have their Virginia launch approved any day.
Virginians are all set to benefit from the legalization of online sports wagering. Similar to the lottery, the state will take 15% of the money generated through its taxes. Of that, 2.5% will go toward helping people with problem gambling issues and the remaining 97.5% will go into the state’s general fund to be used for education, infrastructure, fire and policing services and much more.