Virginia rolls out initial sports betting rules. Big gambling platforms push back.

Virginia rolls out initial sports betting rules. Big gambling platforms push back.
Sports betting could eventually expand to the brick-and-mortar casinos being planned in several cities and the Rosie’s gambling establishments operated by Colonial Downs. (Source: Pixabay)

Sports betting hasn’t arrived in Virginia in time for the start of the NFL season, but state officials are fine-tuning the rules for how the newly legalized industry will work when it starts up in early 2021.

This year, the General Assembly passed a bill authorizing the Virginia Lottery to grant between four and 12 sports betting licenses, greenlighting a type of gambling projected to generate up to $55 million in state tax revenue per year.

Sports betting in Virginia will start online, largely through mobile apps. However, it could eventually expand to the brick-and-mortar casinos being planned in several cities and Rosie’s gambling establishments operated by Colonial Downs.

The Lottery is currently working through a public review of its proposed sports betting regulations, which could determine how quickly the industry takes off in the state and what Virginia bettors will see when the apps are launched.

During the review process, several big-name sports betting operators have taken issue with some of the consumer protection measures and other rules state officials are proposing.

The potential sticking points include:

Displaying handles and odds of winning

As parts of its draft regulations, state officials are developing what’s been dubbed the Sports Bettors Bill of Rights.

One particularly significant rule would require sports betting platforms to provide players with information that can help them make “informed decisions about their gambling,” including the odds of winning a bet and an explanation of how those odds were calculated, the handle (or total amount wagered) and payout amounts.

Major platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel have voiced strong opposition to that requirement, saying no other sports betting state in the country has imposed a similar mandate to display that information in real-time.

Fanduel noted that it offered 24 types of bets for a recent NBA Playoff game, with more than 300 potential outcomes and a “nearly unlimited” number of possible parlay wagers. Having to calculate and present the numbers behind each bet on the fly, the company wrote, could create major logistical challenges in terms of both screen space and processing power.

“Sports betting apps are simply not built to provide and display this type of information,” the company wrote in its formal comments on Virginia’s draft regulations. “As such, this requirement would force a re-engineering of the products, to create a demonstrably worse user experience, and all to provide information which is immaterial to the calculation of the odds and/or payout a bettor will receive.”

Several companies said the rule on showing handles seemed to be a carryover from pari-mutuel horse race wagering that doesn’t translate to other sports.

Wagering on the performance of teams and athletes based on oddsmakers' opinions of favorites and underdogs, the companies argue, is fundamentally different from more mathematically defined types of gambling like lottery tickets, dice rolls or card games.

“The actual odds that the Brooklyn Nets will beat the Toronto Raptors, and by how many points, [are] unknown,” FanDuel wrote.

READ MORE ON VIRGINIAMERCURY.COM>

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.