Who Has the Virginia Horseracing Betting Contract?

It’s a case of when, rather than if, the gambling bug will bite America. Thanks to the rapidly expanding online world and the ease of access to foreign betting sites, US state governments are racing to pass legislation to get in on the action.

The latest state to join the union of online sports betting is Virginia. The commonwealth passed legislation this year that legalizes online gambling and allows licensed bookmakers to offer odds on a variety of games, including horseracing. The only caveat is the government has to pick up the tab for enforcement—hence the nickname “Cashier’s” office—but bookmakers argue this is a small price to pay for gaining access to a potentially lucrative market.

On the surface, Virginia’s betting law looks like it could be the perfect opportunity for bookmakers and daily fantasy sports sites to flood the state with wagers. But, here’s the thing: not all states have the Virginia horseracing betting contract. To be specific, West Virginia doesn’t have a horse racing betting contract, either.

If you’re looking to place a wager from the beautiful green hills of West Virginia, you’re out of luck. The same goes for Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re looking to place a wager on horseracing in one of those states, you’re going to need to look elsewhere. There are plenty of states where the betting public is more keen on football, basketball, and baseball games. So, if you want to bet on horse racing, it might be best to look at states where the sport is most popular.

Why Is Horse Racing Legal In Some States, But Not Others?

Before we get into how legal authority over horseracing varies by state, it’s important to understand how it works in general. State governments have the authority to regulate and tax all aspects of gambling within their borders. The legality of internet gambling varies by jurisdiction, but many states have adopted a “permissive” approach, meaning they allow certain forms of gambling, while treating other forms as illegal. In some states, such as Nevada, this is known as “blue sky” legislation. Permissive states generally allow for a range of gambling activities, including lotteries, roulette, and poker, while strictly regulating other games, such as blackjack and craps.

Forbes has an excellent explainer on how to gamble online in 2019.

Horseracing And Daily Fantasy Sports

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of daily fantasy sports, it’s probably because their existence hasn’t been authorized by US state governments. That is, until very recently. As we’ve covered in depth on this site, the world of online gambling is a crowded field. And while lots of sites focus on football, basketball, and baseball, there is also a very active market for online wagering on horseracing, especially among certain demographics.

Daily fantasy sports allow users to create a team of NBA players, and then compete against other users’ teams. The ability to create custom rosters, and the fact that many games can be played in quick succession, has led many to characterize daily fantasy sports as “casual” sports betting. And, indeed, that is what many are using it for. But, given that they haven’t been approved by regulators in most states, they’re still technically illegal. And even when they’re not, it isn’t always clear whether or not a specific site is operating within the law. In other words, use daily fantasy sports responsibly, and always remember: you are playing with fire.

The Virginia Horse Racing Betting Contract

The 2018 legislation that legalized online gambling in Virginia is a product of the rapidly expanding market. Prior to the law’s passage, the only way to bet on horse racing in the state was through a land-based casino. The ability to bet on sports online has opened up new possibilities for the sports-loving inhabitants of Virginia. Specifically, the law allows for “online wagering on the results of any horse race meeting or event that is open to the public.”

Anyone who’s ever visited a race track or attended one of their events knows exactly what kind of racing fanatics the citizens of Virginia are. With well-known horse racing tracks such as Bethenny and Pimlico in DC, and Richmond Raceway in the state capital, the popularity of horseracing in Virginia is evident. And, of course, you have to consider the Commonwealth’s football, basketball, and baseball teams.

To operate legally within the state of Virginia, a sports betting site must register with the state government, and be licensed by the Virginia Division of Gaming Regulation. If these requirements are satisfied, then the site is legally authorized to accept real money wagers from Virginia residents. Of course, the state’s obligation is to monitor and enforce all aspects of the legislation. Any issues regarding site licensing or the proper operation of a sportsbook will be promptly addressed by state agents.

West Virginia And Louisiana

Forbes sports betting correspondent Rachel Cohen highlights two other states where online gambling is not yet fully regulated: West Virginia and Louisiana.

As we’ve established, not all states have the Virginia betting contract. West Virginia, for example, doesn’t have a horse racing betting contract, and neither does Louisiana. But, rather than pass legislation that would allow for limited regulated internet gambling, the legislatures of both states have taken a different route, and are instead treating it as a local issue to be managed at the state level.

In West Virginia, it’s actually against the law to wager online. You’re not allowed to bet on sporting events online, or use an unlicensed sportsbook. But, as long as there is no federal law against it, it’s a free-for-all at the state level.

And in Louisiana, you need to have a local sponsor to operate an unlicensed sportsbook. But, for the most part, it’s still perfectly legal to wager online in the state. The only thing that varies is the method of payment, which must be done through a third-party processor. And even then, in some cases, players can use debit cards to make wagers.

Kentucky And Tennessee

As we’ve established, not all states have the Virginia betting contract. Kentucky and Tennessee don’t, either, which is strange, given that both states are considered “horse racing capital of the country.” But rather than pass legislation that would allow for limited, regulated internet gambling, the sports fans in Kentucky and Tennessee have had to do it the old-fashioned way: illegally.

Kentucky’s sportsbooks have been around for a while, and operate under the radar in a way that is legal in the state. But, clearly, the times they are a-changing, as evidenced by the 2019 fight for legalization, which was ultimately lost. It’s a battle that won’t go away, though, as evidenced by the 2019 budget, which included money to further tighten gambling regulations.

Tennessee’s sportsbooks have been around for even longer, and are also fully operational. What’s interesting is that, even though horse racing is legal in the state, most sportsbooks still don’t accept wagers on horseracing. That is, until very recently. You are not allowed to bet on sports in Tennessee without a tribal connection. But for some reason, tribes are allowed to operate internet casinos, and so online gambling with the Memphis-based Mashantucket Pequot, for example, is quite popular. And given the state’s large poker population, it’s not hard to see why.

Which States Have Passed Legislation To Regulate Online Gambling?

Despite the fact that not all states have the Virginia horseracing betting contract, the number of states that have passed legislation allowing for some form of online gambling has steadily risen. Here’s a look at how some other states have handled the issue.