By Ben Sullivan

Recently prefiled legislation in the Virginia General Assembly could increase the number of sports wagering licenses available in the state, which has plans to launch sports betting within the next month.

The HB 1847 legislation will not delay the Virginia Lottery’s launch of online sports betting, but a Lottery spokesperson said that it has yet to approve any potential sports betting operators, Sports Handle reports.

Approximately 25 operators applied for up to 14 currently available licenses. The lottery is aiming to “award the first of the licenses” in the next couple of weeks, according to a Lottery spokesperson. That timing would make it a tight squeeze for an operator to be live in Virginia ahead of the Super Bowl, which is set for February 7.

“In the coming weeks, we expect to begin issuing the first sports betting licenses according to the existing law and regulations,” the Virginia Lottery’s Director of Public Affairs and Community Relations Jennifer Mullen told Sports Handle. “If this proposed legislation is successful and takes effect on July 1, 2021, it potentially would make additional licenses available in the future.”

HB 1847 does not remove the current cap, but it reworks the explanation for which sports betting entities or locations count against the cap. In the year-old sports betting law, the Virginia LoThe bill also spells out that the Virginia Lottery may not offer its own sports betting product at a brick-and-mortar location, and further defines the definition of amateur sports.

The General Assembly has a short session this year, from Jan. 13 to Feb. 11. The bill was referred to the House General Laws Committee’s ABC/Gaming Subcommittee. An identical Senate version has been referred to the Committee for Finance and Appropriations. The bills were introduced by the lawmakers who shepherded sports betting through the General Assembly last year.

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