Law, Gambling and Online Poker in Virginia
2021 Update: Can I Play Online Poker in Virginia?
There’s still no specific legislation regulating online poker in Virginia, but the state did massively expand gaming recently. On April 22, 2020 the Virginia state legislature passed two bills. One would allow commercial casinos in the state, the other would allow sports betting. The casino bill doesn’t specifically legalize online gaming, but it does mention online gaming. The bill doesn’t necessarily pave the way for online poker, but it does clear a very important path. It’s being discussed, and some major roadblocks are gone.
While sports betting is now legal, there’s still some time before you can start betting on sports in Virginia. There are still some regulations to be negotiated and lots of specifics that need to be ironed out. The Virginia state Lottery is in charge of managing these expanded forms of gaming. They say at the earliest, the state will see sports betting is in December. There are a few other deadlines between now and then and things could get delayed further depending on how they go.
All this expansion definitely bodes well for online poker regulation. West Virginia is already in the process of launching online poker, we’ll tell you if Virginia follows suit.
Gambling Laws and Poker in Virginia
Virginia has been pretty permissive of gambling and new laws have expanded things even further. Despite that, the laws are fairly restrictive. Gambling is covered in the Code of Virginia. The most basic element of any gaming legislation is to define what gambling is. Section 18.2-325 of the Code of Virginia defines “illegal gambling” as:
“Making, placing, or receipt of any bet or wager in the Commonwealth of money or other consideration or 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…”
This is what makes the law so restrictive. It includes monetary wagers and “other consideration or thing of value.” This is a very broad definition and could make gambling anything fall under the law. “To win a prize” would also include tournaments with non-monetary buy-ins or prizes. The definition does include the word “chance” which is present in nearly every definition of gambling. Virginia goes a bit further and includes “uncertain.” This is important because while poker was ruled to be a game of skill at the federal level, it definitely has uncertain outcomes. Just asked anyone who’s ever gone all-in with pocket aces.
Can I Play Poker on PokerStars in Virginia?
Nope, not yet. That might change in the future though. PokerStars is currently making its way back into the United States on a state-by-state basis. First, a state has to pass online poker legislation. Then it was to give PokerStars a license. States like Nevada and Delaware passed online poker legislation but didn’t license PokerStars partly because of its role in Black Friday. New Jersey and Pennsylvania on the other hand have let PokerStars back in.
Neighboring West Virginia legalized online poker, but it still hasn’t launched yet. We’ll have to wait and see which sites pop up there. But you don’t have to wait to sign up for several online poker sites. Sites like Americas Cardroom, Ignition Poker and Bovada currently accept players from all 50 states. These sites have big tournament guarantees, generous sign-up bonuses and have proven to be pretty good PokerStars alternatives for poker players in Virginia. For more information on these sites and more, check out our full reviews below:
Legal Gambling in Virginia
Virginia has fairly restrictive gambling laws, but they recently expanded and gave residents more gaming options. Unlike several states, Virginia doesn’t have any tribal casinos, but new legislation opened the way for commercial casinos. There’s still no date on when these casinos will open, but they’ll certainly come.
Like most states though, Virginia allows charitable gaming and it also has a state lottery. The Virginia lottery has operated in the commonwealth since 1987 and has grown every year. All profits from the lottery go to K-12 public education. Lottery sales totaled $2.3 billion in 2019. A total of 61.1% of that went back to players while 28.3%, or $650 million, went to public education.
Virginia also has horse tracks. There’s been a few ups and downs when it comes to horse racing in Virginia. Most notably, Colonial Downs has been denied racing dates in the past and had a stretch from 2013 to 2019 with no races. But the track resumed races on Aug. 8, 2019 and things are back up-and-running.
Hopefully poker will be next. If it is, we’ll tell you.
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