Sports bettors in Virginia are getting closer to knowing which operators will soon be the first legal online sportsbooks in the state. The Virginia Lottery is currently reviewing 25 online sportsbook applicants from a range of sports betting companies interested in gaining a foothold in the state’s nascent sports betting market.
However, the state’s gaming and regulatory authority is refusing to name the companies that have applied to date, citing a public-records exemption that the Virginia Lottery claims allows it to withhold information related to “investigations” of either its licensees or applicants.
“The names of specific applicants will not be publicly released or acknowledged,” the Lottery announced in a press release explaining it had received 25 sports betting applications last month. In response to the media’s follow-up questions, a Lottery spokesman went on record as saying that the successful applicants will be identified once the licenses are awarded by the Lottery. What wasn’t clear if Virginia may ever release a full list of applicants, both successful and unsuccessful.
The licensing investigations exemption to Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act allows for regulators to conceal information uncovered about the inner goings-on of private companies. However, the Virginia Lottery appear to be seen to be interpreting that legislation to mean they are not required to release information on who they’re vetting for the finite supply of potentially lucrative state-issued licenses.
The secrecy around the state’s potential sports betting operators is similar to how Virginia State officials treated the state’s first batch of medical cannabis licenses. The Virginia Board of Pharmacy handled the 51 applications it received for five cannabis licenses as medical licensing records, which permitted the applicants to be kept secret even after the board named the winners of the licenses.
With a 90-day window for license approvals, online sportsbooks are expected to launch in Virginia in early 2021. On November 3, the state’s voters also chose to allow for land-based casinos to be introduced to four cities in Virginia.
How many sportsbooks will be approved in Virginia?
As part of the new state law, the Virginia Lottery must issue at least four licenses and no more than 12. The cap on the total number of sports betting licenses does not include any permits that will go to the Major League sports franchises having headquarters or conduct their home games in the state of Virginia.
However, the newly approved casino gaming partners that are a part of upcoming casino developments in Bristol, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Danville will be required to battle it out to get one of the 12 available licenses.
Virginia Lottery Executive Director, Kevin Hal explains;
“The high level of interest by national and international sports betting operators validates Virginia’s efforts to strike an appropriate and responsible balance in its regulatory program for legalized sports betting.
“We are confident that the deliberative review process we are undergoing now will result in a successful program that protects consumers, athletes, and taxpayer” Mr. Hal said.
Big name companies like DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and William Hill are widely to be expected to be among the pending applications for approval in the state of Virginia, while both 888Sport and Barstool Sports are looking to spread their wings nationwide, and that no doubt includes Virginia.
The Virginia Lottery are considering several factors in their review of the received applications. Those include the operator’s prior experience and recorded successes in the U.S. sports betting industry. The Virginia gaming regulator will also assess an applicant’s efforts to attract minority investors, review their estimated tax revenue from sports wagering operations, and how many jobs they expect to create exclusively for Virginia state residents.