Virginia Governor’s Casino Amendments Approved By The General Assembly

bill changes approved
Virginia governor Ralph Northam (right) made some changes to sports betting bills, which were approved this week.

Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, in office since 2018, had his sports betting amendments approved by the Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday. Northam, a pediatric neurologist by trade, took office the same year the Supreme Court overturned a sports betting ban.

That decision allowed states to allow legalized sports betting in their states. Over a dozen states have legalized sports betting since that landmark decision.

Northam has been a very vocal advocate of sports betting since he’s been in office. The General Assembly decision gives the green light to five casinos in the Old Dominion State to offer their guests sports betting.

Northam has been fine-tuning the amendments in the last few months. He had some concerns over where the revenue from sports betting would go. Before Northam put the sports betting bills back on the floor for a vote, he wanted to make sure the direction of the revenue was clear.

The original sports betting bills indicated that all generated revenue from taxing sports betting was going to the Virginia General Fund. Northam modified that so that two-thirds of the money would go to school construction projects.

Voluntary Exclusion Program For Gaming Employees Also Modified

The Voluntary Exclusion Program deals with what prospective casino employees disclose during the interview process. Northam modified the program so that background checks could be conducted prior to potential employees being offered a position.

The Virginia Senate and the Virginia House of Representatives signed off on the changes that Northam made on Wednesday. The amendments received overwhelming bipartisan support, 30-9 in the Senate, and 66-29 in the House.

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The Virginia General Assembly held a special meeting on Wednesday just to commence voting on the bills that Northam modified. The two sports betting bills are SB36 and HB 4, which will impact five cities in Virginia, Norfolk, Bristol, Danville, Richmond and Portsmouth.

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Norfolk is one of the five cities that stand to gain from the approval of sports betting bills in Virginia.

Now that the House and Senate have approved the amendments, the sports bills will now be on the ballot on Nov. 3. Unlike other states that have allowed sports betting, Virginia has some rather unique requirements.

The five cities chosen for sports betting meet a set of standards that were included in the sports betting bills: An unemployment rate of 5% or less, poverty rate at 20% or less, and a population decline of 20% from 1990 to 2016.

Casinos In Virginia Will Have A Unique Tax Structure

The casinos in Virginia will be taxed according to the rules and regulations set forth in the two sports betting bills. They will be taxed at 18% for any profits up to $200 million and 23% for profits from between $200 million and $400 million. Anything that is over $400 million in profits will be taxed at 30%.

Another issue on the docket for the General Assembly on Tuesday was some details of the sports betting bills that Northam made modifications on. The Virginia Lottery Commission will oversee the sports betting operations in the state.

There were some issues regarding how the private information of bettors is received and documented. Northam made a big change to the licensing fees.

Before Northam changed the conditions, the sports betting licensing fee was $250,000, which was non-refundable, even if the applicant wasn’t approved. Northam’s changes will return $200,000 if the applicant is not approved for a sports betting license.

The Governor said keeping the entire amount was completely “outrageous and will drive away applicants.” A source at the Governor’s office said the bills are expected to be voted into law in November.

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