Sportsbook Launch Could be Step Towards New Virginia Stadium for Washington Football Team
Rob Carr/Getty Images. Pictured: FedExField, Home of the Washington Football Team in the District of Columbia.
Virginia online sports betting went live Thursday afternoon after FanDuel started accepting bets shortly before 3 p.m. local time. FanDuel is the only sportsbook approved so far by the Virginia Lottery, which regulates sports betting in the commonwealth.
FanDuel christens one of the more anticipated online sports betting launches in America. Virginia’s young, growing and tech-savvy population has it set to be one of the larger markets by both gross and per capita handle.
Virginia adds another legal online sports betting jurisdiction to the I-95 corridor, along with Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington D.C. Maryland is expected to approve online sports betting in the coming months and New York and Delaware already accept retail bets.
Favored Status with Washington Football Team Enables FanDuel’s Quick Start
Virginia’s 2020 sports betting law allowed untethered online sportsbooks but gave preferential treatment to those partnered with major professional sports teams “headquartered” in the commonwealth. Virginia has no professional sports teams in any of the four largest professional leagues, but it is the home to the Washington Football Team’s headquarters in the D.C. suburb of Ashburn.
The Football Team’s affiliation with FanDuel, by law, opened the door for a head start. It could also accelerate a new retail sportsbook in Virginia.
Football Team owner Dan Snyder has campaigned for an in-stadium sportsbook as he looks for a new home venue for his franchise. Officials have responded tepidly to a new Football Team venue in the District of Columbia, the team’s former home, as well as Maryland, where it plays its games now.
A few months before he left office in 2017, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe championed a new Virginia stadium for the franchise. Virginia governors are not allowed to serve consecutive terms, but McAuliffe is a favorite to return to office in this autumn’s gubernatorial election.
This could possibly return an outspoken stadium advocate to the governor’s mansion for another four years –- and a few years before the Football Team’s lease with FedEx Field, its current home, is set to end.
Substantial political and logistical legwork needs to be completed before a hypothetical Washington Football Team relocation to the commonwealth, but the sports betting legislation’s crafting –- and the early launch by WFT partner FanDuel –- could be a step toward that reality.
It could also explain the unusual single-operator start.
Most other states have let multiple operators go live on the same day. Tennessee approved four sportsbooks, to go live simultaneously when legal wagering began in the state. Michigan is set to see as many as 10 sportsbooks start taking bets on its go-live date Friday.
More Sportsbooks to Follow
In the meantime, up to a dozen additional sportsbooks are set to go live in the coming days. However, the Virginia Lottery has not publicly announced any further approvals, released an expected launch date — or even disclosed the list of approved operators. Nonetheless, several top sportsbook brands are expected to launch before this year’s Super Bowl, typically sportsbooks’ most lucrative annual sporting event.
Virginia’s sports betting law also bestowed special status to sportsbooks partnered with retail casinos, which were approved by voters in four separate cities last year. This means Hard Rock (partnered with the coming Bristol casino), BetRivers (Portsmouth) and Ceases / William Hill (Danville) will all be able to open online sportsbooks.
The fourth casino, in Norfolk, has not announced its partner. A fifth casino will be on the ballot later this year in Richmond, which also hasn’t disclosed a potential sportsbook partner.
The law also allowed the commonwealth’s two major professional motorsports tracks to partner with a sportsbook. Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway have already partnered with Wynn.
Additionally, roughly a dozen untethered sportsbooks unaffiliated with any other entities will be able to take bets. The lottery has not disclosed which operators earned licenses, but leading brands in other states such as DraftKings, Barstool Sports, PointsBet and BetMGM are among the favorites to go live in the coming days.