Legal sports betting in Virginia commenced last year online, and some mobile sportsbooks have been quick to steal the commonwealth’s famed tagline for their marketing materials. But state lawmakers say the iconic “Virginia is for Lovers” motto should not be used in such nefarious ways.
State Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City), first elected to the Virginia General Assembly in 1992, is one of Virginia’s longest-serving lawmakers. The 75-year-old voted in favor of the 2020 bill that authorized sports betting in the commonwealth.
Norment’s support of legal sports gambling, however, ends with sportsbooks using a slightly altered version of the “Virginia is for Lovers” tagline. Licensed sportsbooks in the state, including DraftKings and Barstool Sportsbook, have advertised that “Virginia is for Bettors.”
Norment says after recently hearing such an advertisement while driving in his car, he decided to introduce legislation that prohibits sportsbooks from including the line “Virginia is for Bettors.”
The legislation quickly gained favor in the assembly’s upper chamber. Norment’s Senate Bill 96 passed the Senate unanimously 40-0 earlier this week.
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While perhaps not as iconic as “What Happens Here, Stays Here” that has long marketed Las Vegas, Virginia’s tourism and travel slogan in 2012 was deemed by Advertising Age as “one of the most iconic ad campaigns in the past 50 years.”
Frankly, it annoyed me,” Norment said of hearing “Virginia is for Bettors” on the radio. “We’ve spent a lifetime trying to market ‘Virginia is for Lovers.’ I just felt it was trespassing.”
Norment’s bill, if passed by the House and signed by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), would prohibit sportsbooks or any other gaming business from using “Virginia is for Bettors” in commercial marketing. Violators would be subjected to a $50,000 fine.
Norment revealed that an earlier version of the bill that would have outlawed sportsbooks and casinos from even using “Virginia” in advertisements met a stern response from the gaming industry. His re-worked legislation to only limit the modified state motto was better embraced.
No sportsbook or gaming firm presented opposition to SB96 during the bill’s hearings in the General Laws and Technology Committee.
“Virginia is for Lovers” was developed by two marketing wizzes back in 1968. Advertising executives David Martin and George Woltz, who would later form The Martin Agency, a creative advertising firm that is still in operation today, are credited with coming up with the historic adage.
The original concept specified what sort of lovers Virginia was for depending on the state tourism attraction being advertised. “Virginia is for Beach Lovers,” “Virginia is for Mountain Lovers,” and “Virginia is for History Lovers” were a few of the lines used.
State tourism officials later dropped the qualifier, and “Virginia is for Lovers” was fully embraced.
Martin and Woltz have long denied that they came up with their “lovers” motto after Virginia legalized interracial marriage through a 1967 court ruling.
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