Is Any Gambling Legal in Virginia?
Yes, and this year the list of legal gambling in Virginia has grown.
Prior to 2020 Virginia was known among gambling circle for its intricate horse betting network. Despite being home to only one horse racing track, Virginia was all-in on horse betting with a network of pari-mutuel betting venues, and EZ Betting terminals in bars and restaurants that allowed for betting on simulcast races.
Virginia also has a state lottery, charitable gambling, including bingo and raffles, and social gambling. The state’s social gambling laws permit home poker games as long as there is no profit being made by the game’s operator through entry fees or a rake.
In 2020 Virginia’s legal gambling landscape expanded rapidly. Senate Bill 36 was passed which allowed the Virginia Lottery Board to issue one casino license each to Bristol, Norfolk, Danville, Portsmouth and Richmond. The approval of these casinos still hinged on referendums to be held in each county. If approved, and built, these casinos would offer table games, including Blackjack and roulette, slots and poker.
In 2020 Virginia also legalized sports betting. For now, House Bill 896, which legalized sports betting, only allows online betting. This will likely change once the casinos are built and the bill includes a provision that will give “preferred consideration” to granting the casinos sports betting licenses.
Virginia Laws Pertinent to Online Poker
Currently there are no specific laws on the books in Virginia that makes online poker legal or illegal in the state. When the new laws were passed earlier this year regarding the legalization of casinos and sports betting it did give the state Lottery Board the ability to develop future regulations for online gaming.
This would include online poker and online casino games. There was no inclination as to when or even if these regulations would be created.
In the meantime, while there may not be any specific laws regarding online poker, there is a standard definition for illegal gambling under Section 18.2-325 of the Virginia Criminal Code. It states,
“Illegal gambling means the making, placing or receipt of any bet or wager in the Commonwealth of money or other thing of value, made in exchange for a chance to win a prize, stake or other consideration or thing of value, dependent upon the result of any game, contest or any other event the outcome of which is uncertain or a matter of chance, whether such game, contest or event occurs or is to occur inside or outside the limits of the Commonwealth.”
Under this definition online poker could be considered illegal gambling in the state. Anyone found to be participating in illegal gambling could face a misdemeanour charge. Despite this, the chances of facing illegal gambling charges for playing online poker in Virginia remain quite low.