An amendment to Virginia’s sports betting law to allow wagering on in-state college teams could siphon off betting traffic from North Carolina sportsbooks in the future.
That likely won’t happen until after March Madness 2024.
When Virginia legalized sports wagering back in 2020, the law prohibited placing bets on college teams within the state. So, when sportsbooks opened in 2021, residents had to leave Virginia if they wanted to wager on college teams within the Old Dominion.
North Carolina had a unique advantage until the specter of SB 124
Fast forward to 2023, and jump next door to North Carolina.
The legalization of online sports betting in North Carolina included allowing betting on college sports, including on in-state teams. For Virginia residents, especially in the southern portion of the state, this means that they will only have to travel a short distance to place legal bets on their home-state teams. In turn, they will help line the coffers of North Carolina’s sportsbooks and add to tax revenue.
However, it’s possible for that scenario to evaporate. North Carolina online sportsbooks are set to go live perhaps as early as March Madness. In the meantime, a push to amend Virginia’s sports betting law to allow betting on college programs in the state is underway.
Sen. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, introduced Senate Bill 124 on Jan. 10. The bill would strike out the one-line prohibition on betting on intercollegiate sports in the current law. However, a ban on prop bets on college sports would remain. Prohibiting prop bets on college teams is not uncommon and is regarded as a safeguard against harassment of student-athletes by frustrated bettors. North Carolina, for its part, does not outlaw prop bets on collegiate sports.
Currently, SB 124 is in the Senate General Laws and Technology Sub-Committee for Gaming. VanValkenburg is a member of the committee. The chair of the committee, Sen. Jeremy S. McPike, D-Prince William, voted in favor of the original sports betting law back in 2020.
Even if SB 124 passes, NC could benefit from Virginia March Madness bettors
While there is no clear timeline for the movement of SB 124, it must clear the House of Delegates and the Senate before reaching the governor for approval. However, supporters of the bill must move fast as the legislature pauses for a recess on March 9. The legislature reconvenes on April 17 for consideration of amendments and governor vetoes.
So, it’s possible that online sports betting could go live in North Carolina before SB 124 passes, especially if the NC Lottery Commission fulfills Gov. Roy Cooper’s wish that sports wagering launches in time for the NCAA DI Basketball Tournament on March 19.
If that happens, 2024 might mark the one and only year North Carolina benefits from Virginia bettors crossing the border to bet online on their favorite college teams.
James Madison and Va. Tech are top draws for Virginia bettors
Who are the attractive Virginia college basketball teams–both men’s and women’s–for March Madness 2024?
Bettors in Virginia have some promising prospects for home-state teams that have a chance at postseason play.
On the men’s March Madness side, James Madison has the best chance of earning an at-large NCAA berth as it is receiving votes in the last Associated Press Poll. Richmond is second in the standings in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
On the women’s side, Virginia Tech has been ranked in the AP Top 25 all season and has only three losses so far. Three women’s mid-major teams sit atop the standings in their respective conferences and have a good chance at winning their leagues tournaments for automatic Big Dance berths: Richmond (Atlantic 10), Radford (Big South) and Norfolk State (MEAC).
College presidents cold to the idea of betting on intercollegiate sports
SB 124 does face some opposition, which means NC could continue to entertain Virginia bettors for the near future.
In 2020, legislators received a letter from university presidents in the state asking politicians to oppose legalizing betting on college teams.
Virginia has 37 NCAA member institutions and 14 of those schools are Division I schools. Two of those schools are in the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, Virginia and Virgina Tech, staunch rivals to NC’s ACC programs.
Other teams of note in Virginia include three more Division I Football Bowl Subdivision members: James Madison, Liberty, and Old Dominion.
VanValkenburg argues that it is better to legalize wagering on college teams as it is already happening.
“You can ban it, but people are still going to do it,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “The fear that this is going to corrupt or put pressure on Virginia athletes, that’s already there. We’re already living in that world.”