The Commonwealth of Virginia proudly puts its name on its lottery along with its logo of crossed good-luck fingers that form a “V.”
Despite the fact that lotteries are just about the worst wagering proposition that 17th century probability godfather Blaise Pascal could have imagined, the Commonwealth of Virginia hawks it feverishly on the basis that it serves the public good — in this case, education.
And the lottery advertising pitches often prominently display the word “Virginia.” And that’s understandable.
All of which may leave some bewildered by newly introduced legislation by veteran Virginia state Sen. Thomas Norment Jr., the minority leader. As written, Norment’s SB96 says “a gaming business is prohibited from using the name of Virginia or the Commonwealth in an advertisement in association with its product or service.” The civil penalty for a violation can be up to $50,000.
Of course, the lottery itself would not be affected and no other type of industry is mentioned in the proposed statute as being embargoed from using either “Virginia” or “Commonwealth” in connection with an “advertisement” for that business. Advertising is protected under the 1st Amendment, although commercial speech has somewhat less protection.
In full disclosure, this company has a website and an attached web domain of VirginiaIsForBettors.com.
The parent company of VirginiaIsForBettors.com, the Gambling.com Group, is publicly traded on the NASDAQ and by self-description is “a media company and does not offer actual gambling services but helps online sportsbooks and casino operators acquire players.” It is licensed to do so in Virginia.
”Virginia’s state legislature made it clear that Virginia is for bettors when they legalized sports betting in April 2020 with a strong regulatory regime that offered consumers a choice of online sportsbooks. We will of course respect the will of Virginia's lawmakers but now eagerly anticipate the forthcoming debate on whether or not Virginia is, linguistically speaking, for bettors,” Gambling.com Group said in a statement.
For the most part, VirginiaIsForBettors.com provides news about online sports wagering and overall gaming in the Commonwealth and aspires to point its own audience to legal, regulated gaming operators who are licensed in Virginia. Among the news to be found on VirginiaIsForBettors.com is financial reporting on Virginia’s online betting industry, including taxes paid.
The commonwealth’s 11 licensed online operators reported a combined handle of about $427 million in December. Since launching in January 2021, more than $3.2 billion was wagered the rest of the year in the state.
VA Sports Betting Supports Education
Overseen by the aforementioned Virginia Lottery, online sports wagering in Virginia also helps to support education through the taxes raised. Arguably, by extension, enterprises that refer customers to sports wagering operators contribute to that effort.
Norment’s proposed bill is sparse on details and without specific rationale. From its opening “Be it enacted …” to the final period, it’s about 150 words. Perhaps laudably, in doing so it already achieves what many bills do not. Most legislative proposals can’t clear their throats in 150 words.
The senator has not responded to a request for comment.
Norment’s bill flew through the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology, 13-0, and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee Feb. 9.
Whatever the outcome, VirginiaIsForBettors.com will report the news.