Virginia signs off on proposed casino gaming regulations
This week, the Virginia Lottery Board pushed legal casino gambling in the state closer to reality after approving proposed permanent gaming regulations. The published permanent rules build upon a set of emergency casino regulations okayed by the Board on February 3.
The next step for the rules is approval by Governor Ralph Northam. Upon endorsement by the Governor, the Board will announce a 60-day public comment window for citizens and other stakeholders to give their views on the proposed regulations before publishing the final rules.
Commenting on the development, Virginia Lottery executive director Kevin Hall said: “The Lottery’s Gaming Compliance Department and Office of General Counsel have been diligently working to set up the regulatory and licensing framework to ensure that casino gaming in Virginia is secure and transparent. In this role, we see the Lottery as the public’s watchdog, confirming that the law and regulations are followed, and the integrity of casino gambling is protected.”
Virginia is among the few US states without commercial or tribal land-based casinos. Gambling was illegal in the jurisdiction until November last year, when voters backed propositions to allow commercial casinos in four cities.
What’s in Virginia’s proposed gaming regulations?
The permanent regulations published by the VA Lottery Board propose a regulatory framework for casino gambling in the Old Dominion State.
In the 530-page document, the regulator outlines the various types of games that licensed casinos can offer, the licensing process for operators and suppliers, application fees and tax rates, mobile gambling rules, and responsible gaming.
Currently, there are four operator licenses available, and they will be awarded to entities already approved to run casinos in one of the four cities that voted to authorize the market. They include Caesars Entertainment, Hard Rock International, Rush Street Gaming, and the Pamukey Indian Tribe.
The proposed application fee for operator licenses is $50,000, and upon approval, the applicant will be required to pay a permit fee of $15 million to the Board to be issued with a license.
Some of the things that the regulator will consider when vetting applicants include ensuring that the games offered by the operator and associated equipment meet the standards required by the state’s gaming law. Also, the operator must have made a capital investment of at least $300 million in the casino, and they must possess an equity interest of 20% or more in the facility.
Permits issued to operators will be valid for 10 years.
When it comes to mobile casino gaming, licensed facilities will be allowed to offer online wagering on-premise only, and there is an in-person registration requirement for those who will be interested in playing on mobile. The regulations also allow licensed casinos to apply for sports betting permits.
Big changes to Virginia gambling laws
As earlier mentioned, the state of Virginia did not allow casino gambling until November 2020.
Efforts to legalize the market started in 2019 when HB4 was filed in the Virginia House by Rep. Barry D. Knight. The bill, which sought to expand gambling in the state to include casino gaming in five eligible cities, cleared both Houses in April 2020, and it was signed into law by Gov. Northam on April 22, 2020.
Just like sports betting, casino gaming will be legal for persons who are at least 21 years old. The proposed cities where casinos will be legal are Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Richmond.
In November last year, citizens of Danville, Bristol, Portsmouth, and Norfolk approved the establishment of one commercial casino in each of the cities in a referendum, paving the way for the Lottery Board to regulate the market.
The companies that have been approved by the host cities to set up and run the casino establishments are Hard Rock International in Bristol, Caesars Entertainment in Danville, Pamunkey Indian Tribe in Norfolk, and Rush Street Gaming in Portsmouth.
It is expected that residents of Richmond will vote on the proposition in November 2021.