Virginia sports betting promotions used by sportsbooks to sign up new customers and retain others are no longer tax-free. That’s after state lawmakers amended the regulatory conditions that govern the expanded gaming.
Legal sports betting in Virginia began in January 2021, after state lawmakers and then-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) authorized gambling on sports. The new rules allowed both in-person and online in March of the previous year.
The regulated sportsbooks, licensed by the Virginia Lottery, have operated predominantly over the internet since their January 2021 debuts. The Virginia Lottery has since granted 14 entities with sports betting privileges.
Virginia is home to nearly 8.6 million people, ranking it 12th in the US. Paired with Virginia ranking 10th in terms of median household income, the commonwealth is very attractive to the sports betting industry.
More than a dozen sportsbook platforms have been fiercely battling for market share since January 2021. And they do so by offering new customers substantial signup bonuses featuring free play, deposit matches, and risk-free bets.
But those marketing incentives will soon be subject to Virginia’s full 15% tax it levies on sports betting revenue after an operator’s first year in business.
Virginia’s sports betting law initially allowed for sportsbooks to strike revenue generated by promotional incentives.
For example, if FanDuel offers a new customer a one-time $500 risk-free bet, and the player loses that bet, FanDuel has not been required to include the $500 win-back money as gross revenue. But with sportsbooks writing off substantial amounts of their revenue — operators deducting more than $9.96 million in bonuses and promotions in May alone, the most recently disclosed month — state lawmakers say the tax affordance should be reduced.
Through their 2022-2024 biennium budget bill, Virginia lawmakers added a provision overhauling how sports betting promos are taxed. Item 494 in the budget ends marketing tax breaks for sportsbooks 12 months after the operator takes its first bet in the state.
A permit holder, through the first 12 months of sports betting activity, may exclude from adjusted gross revenue the value of allowable bonuses or promotions provided to bettors as an incentive to place or as a result of their having placed internet sports betting wagers. After the first 12 months of sports betting activity, a permit holder is prohibited from excluding from adjusted gross revenue any bonuses or promotions provided to bettors as an incentive to place or as a result of their having placed internet sports betting wagers,” Item 494 reads as it adjusts the tax law.
Virginia primarily earmarks sports betting tax revenue or its General Fund. But a small portion — some 2.5% — of the tax money is allocated to the state’s Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund.
Change to Increase State Benefit
Including promotional revenue into a sportsbook’s tax liability is expected to substantially increase tax revenue.
The regulatory change, effective immediately, ends the promotional tax write-off for numerous bookmakers that have been operating in Virginia for more than a year. They include BetMGM, BetRivers, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, FanDuel, Unibet, and WynnBET.
Along with the 15% tax liability on gross income, each licensed sportsbook paid a $300,000 one-time licensing fee to the state. They must also pay $200,000 to the state for their permits to renew every three years.
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