Virginia is on its way to become the next state to officially launch legal online poker. With Governor Ralph Northam’s signature, online poker in Virginia just got the go-ahead. There’s a lot that needs to be done still, though.
Online Poker in Virginia Stars Preparing for a Launch
It wasn’t exactly a cliff-hanger when we left Virginia’s poker bill in a limbo last week.
The State’s Governor, Ralph Northam, had never made a public appearance during which he had lambasted online gambling.
Given the strong bilateral support that online gambling has enjoyed in both bodies of the legislature, meaning the House of Representatives and the Senate, it’s no surprise that Mr. Northam signed SB 1126 into law.
SB 1126 cleared both legislative hurdles with ease, winning 30 votes in the Senate and following up with 64 in the House. There were 33 cast against it by delegates, but that hardly killed its momentum when the bill was finally signed into law on March 26.
What’s Next for Online Poker in Virginia?
With online gambling accepted, the next few years will be a time for rapid expansion. Presently, SB 1126 offers a slightly restrictive climate for casinos, or to put it this way – the conditions to set up a casino business, and by extension, an online business, are very demanding.
Casinos that hope to open near cities or their areas will have to stand public scrutiny during a special referendum in the city. To qualify, a host city will have to have at least 200,000 citizens, and also have a pre-determined level of poverty, unemployment, and a population that has shrunk in recent years.
SB 1126 itself is very specific about each individual point. Meanwhile, a Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) will have to first deliver a comprehensive report that will examine legislation in other states.
This will have to take place by December 1, 2019. Once this has been done, the state’s Lottery Board will be tasked with fine-tuning the legal framework for the state by June, 2019. No casino will be allowed to open and operate before July 1, 2019.
Casinos will also have to apply by 2021. Failing to do so will mean that a casino can no longer obtain a permit – at least for a while or until a re-evaluation of the industry is carried out.
Online Poker Yet to Be Defined
SB 1126 passage is a success that needs to be celebrated. However, there are a few points that need to be addressed – throughout the original text, online poker and online gambling are not heavily featured, which leaves some room for questions.
Does Virginia intend to focus on online gambling and poker? In the text, online poker and all iGaming products are mentioned as part of the definition.
Based on this alone, the state will have some sorting out to do. This precludes the now newly-presented problem with the Wire Act Interpretation. DOJ has recently filed a motion to dismiss the complaint lodged by New Hampshire against the Department’s interpretation of the Act.