It took 37 days, but the first noteworthy public comment was finally submitted on the proposed Virginia sports betting regulations.
Caesars Entertainment, through lobbyist Ken Hutcheson, submitted a number of proposed changes they’d like to see in the regulations. While Caesars isn’t strictly a sportsbook operator – William Hill is taking over sportsbooks at Caesars properties following a merger with Eldorado Resorts – it is very interested in Virginia. Caesars is pitching a $400 million casino in Danville to open in 2023.
Virginia was the second state to legalize sports betting in 2020, but it’ll just miss launching this year. While final regulations need to be approved by Sept. 15 the first bets won’t be taken until early 2021.
Operators will need to apply when the period opens in mid-October to be live for NFL betting in the playoffs.
Proposed Virginia sports betting changes
Caesars makes a couple of attention-worthy points in its recommendations on Virginia sports betting, notably a cold-eyed stance on responsible gaming:
“Ultimately, the decision to gamble or not gamble, or how much or how little to gamble, is the responsibility of the gambler. Indeed, taking personal responsibility for one’s own gambling decisions is a hallmark of both healthy play as well as recovery from a gambling problem.”
That came in response to proposed problem gambling regulations, including a call for each sports betting platform to provide “ample opportunities” for bettors to see how much time has passed since they logged on. That isn’t needed since the vast majority of customers will bet on phones, tablets, or computers that already display the time, Caesars said.
Virginia’s proposed regulations also state sportsbook operators should honor requests from third parties to exclude or set limits for other bettors.
That’s bound to be misused and nowhere else in the US requires it, the company said. Instead, Caesars wants sportsbooks to evaluate those requests and then report results to regulators.
More responsible gaming discussion
For instance, the draft regulations require a self-exclusion request to be made from their online gaming account. That’s like sending someone that wants to self-exclude from a casino into the casino to make the request, the company said.
Caesars also called for the Virginia Lottery to remove the ban on Olympic betting. It isn’t banned by the enabling state law and only undermines the state’s betting market, they contend:
“Its imposition simply channels wagering activity on Olympic sports to other states where such betting is permitted or to illegal bookmakers, defeating the fundamental purpose of legalized sports wagering in increasing transparency of such activity and affording it consumer protections.”
Caesars says no to listing handle, odds creation practices
The casino operator also thinks regulators want bettors to have a little too much information.
Part of the proposed regulations includes the Virginia Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights. In order to ensure integrity and transparency, regulators want sports betting operators to list the handle of each bet and the information used to calculate odds on each line set.
Both of those, however, are proprietary information, Caesars argues. And disclosing how odds are calculated is “impossibly cumbersome,” the operator added.
“While it may be appropriate for permit holders to provide information generally on how odds are set, this information should be part of general consumer education and not made specific to particular contests or betting opportunities,” Caesars said.
Caesars not interested in projecting Virginia revenue
The number of sportsbook operators in Virginia will come down to what is the most economically viable for the state.
The lottery’s executive director has to decide how many sportsbooks will maximize revenue, up to 12. The five potential casino operators are all but assured a license, though. So that means there will likely be between four and seven online-only sportsbooks in the state.
But not knowing how many operators will be in the market makes it “difficult if not impossible” for applicants and regulators to make revenue estimates, Caesars said.
Instead, regulators should look at success in other US states, the company suggested. Caesars also recommended adding a requirement that the regulators consider a sportsbooks’ business plan to maximize revenue as well.
Virginia sports betting market basics
Virginia’s sports betting law included a mixed bag of good and bad ideas.
The tax rate is a reasonable 15%. The effective rate is even lower since operators can subtract federal excise tax payments.
But Virginia banned betting on in-state colleges. Just like Caesars said with Olympic betting, that handle will only move to another state or an offshore sportsbook.
Virginia also requires the use of official league data for in-play bets.