Online Gambling For Real Money in Virginia

Virginia has had gambling ever since pilgrims sailed across the ocean from England to find a new world, and they brought their gambling with them. The American colonies brought opportunity to all, but the British did bring their feudal caste system with them as well to some degree anyway, where those who fled to be free of these things found a watered-down version of this awaiting them in America, where wealth still spoke much louder than the crowd.

It’s not that this has completely gone away even 400 years later, and much of the legislation that our elected officials pass is unduly influenced by wealthy “donors” who seek to magnify their voice and do so very effectively. The crowd did gain enough power to severely restrict legal gambling options in the state, and it’s taken centuries to finally get to the point that we are at today where the majority is willing enough to set aside their personal prejudices to allow people to choose to spend their money on gambling games and the state to benefit economically from this.

Virginia is at a crossroads now, where a new and more progressive course is being charted, to seek to make up some of the ground that they lost due to their prudishness. Those who favor gambling have much to be excited about now, although plenty of Virginians have been plenty excited all along, and we will show you why.

History of Gambling in Virginia

Virginia Online Casinos and SlotsThe history of gambling in the United States begins in Virginia, where gambling was fashionable at the time that the first permanent British settlement was created in Jamestown in 1609. The love of gambling among the British goes back far longer than this, and while many Puritans and others holding personal beliefs against gambling came over as well, the upper class of Virginia famously continued to enjoy gambling among themselves.

Given that the settlers came from Britain, it is not surprising that the class system that dominated Britain for centuries at the time carried over to the new world, although perhaps not to the extent that it played out in Virginia during its formative years.

The Virginia experiment pitted British upper-class “gentleman” against a great many people whose fervent religious beliefs were a little too much for the old country, where they came to the new world to find a new home where they could band together and have the bigger say in public policy than they were afforded at home.

The majority of the gambling in the 17th century in Virginia was confined to the upper class, particularly with betting on horses, where they would pit their champion race horses against one another and only “gentleman” were permitted to bet on them. British aristocracy were known to frequent Virginia’s gambling halls often during this period, and it is said the Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich while sitting at a Virginian gambling table.

On the other side of town, the “common folk” with their Puritan beliefs strongly opposed gambling and held public whippings to prosecute those among them found to be gambling. The upper class were well insulated from this public discontent and just ignored it and carried on, while trying to keep the commoners away.

In the 1680s, wealthy landowners in Virginia formed a compact among themselves to institute a number of rules and codes of conduct that was to be followed, part of which was to seek to limit gambling to those of means, with little regard to public opinion, and actually managed to keep those outside their circle on the outside looking in. Outsiders, such as the tailor that was bold enough to enter his horse in a race in 1674, was fined by the York County court due to it “being contrary to the law for a laborer to make a race, being a sport only for Gentlemen.”

While not welcome in the elite gambling club of this era in Virginia, it wasn’t that they weren’t permitted to gamble, they just weren’t worthy of being involved in the Sport of Kings. Virginia commonly held lotteries during the colonial period, as did all of the 13 colonies, although this eventually all came to an end when the majority ended having their say in later years, when their view of gambling as sinful became codified into law to a large degree.

By 1740, gambling was prohibited in Virginia with the exception of betting on horses, which the General Assembly characterized as a sport and not a game, and permitted wagers not in excess of $20. It wasn’t until 1894 that the General Assembly outlawed gambling generally, with the exception of betting on horses during county fairs and other occasional events.

The battle between gambling operators and the state continued throughout most of the 20th century, where operators would take advantage of loopholes as well as a reluctance of law enforcement to enforce the state’s anti-gambling laws. In 1978, the state finally legalized horse race betting again, and in 1987, they also legalized a state lottery.

Virginians have also now warmed up to the idea of allowing casino gambling, and even passed a bill allowing it with certain provisions. This is currently being worked out between the state and operators and casinos are coming to Virginia once they get all this sorted out.

Virginia Gambling Laws

Virginia’s gambling laws exist in their original form from the 19th century that serve as a blanket prohibition. It is not unusual for states to at least seek blanket prohibitions to attempt to make all gambling illegal unless expressly permitted by law, and even some of the most progressive states have such laws, to clean the table and have their decisions to enable it in various forms stand alone.

There are often gaps in the law where the legislation may seek to ban all forms of gambling but may fall short, and there are many examples of this. Virginia’s anti-gambling law is not at all like this, as it makes its point very clearly. We only need to look at Virginia’s definition of anti-gambling to see this:

“Illegal gambling” means the making, placing or receipt of any bet or wager in the Commonwealth of money or other 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, whether such game, contest or event occurs or is to occur inside or outside the limits of the Commonwealth.

It is the last part, whether or not the event occurs inside our outside the state, that slams the door on online gambling, even though there’s no way that lawmakers could have ever contemplated such a thing over 100 years ago. Virginia does have a history of people taking bets on out of state horse races though, and this was meant to shut the door to that, even though it does serve to do the same thing with online gambling.

This wasn’t understood all that well years later when online gambling did emerge, where there were efforts to pass additional laws outlawing this new form of gambling, but it doesn’t take much of a careful reading of the law to understand that if betting on anything that occurs anywhere is against the law, this would include online gambling because it does involve betting while residing in the state on anything occurring anywhere.

The provision of this law requiring an element of chance also created some misunderstanding, and somehow, it was believed that the game of poker might be exempt from this if it is to be understood as a game of skill primarily and not chance. The addition of “uncertain” outcomes as well as outcomes as a matter of chance leaves nothing to chance in understanding that poker or any other wager where the outcome of the wager is uncertain meets the law’s definition of illegal gambling.

There isn’t even the realistic possibility of an exception given that the law renders illegal any form of gambling on unknown outcomes in any form whatsoever. The only wager that could possibly escape this net is when both parties make a wager and both know the outcome of it, which is a bet that would never be placed in reality because one of the parties would be wagering with knowledge of the bet being lost.

This would be like betting on the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election where both parties know Trump won, but one of them bet on Clinton anyway. If there was any uncertainty about this, the bet would be illegal. This is the only form of betting the Commonwealth of Virginia allows, apart from whatever else they tell you that they allow, the lottery, betting on horses, and whatever else the state ends up deciding on.

One of the things that Virginia has decided to permit is social gaming, under the following provisions:

Nothing in this article shall be construed to make it illegal to participate in a game of chance conducted in a private residence, provided such private residence is not commonly used for such games of chance and there is no operator as defined in subsection 4 of S. 28-2-325.

The interesting part of this is the use of “not commonly used,” which is vague and leaves the interpretation of this up to the courts. Commonly used would suggest much more than something like a weekly game, where the common use of the property would be to offer gambling and not being commonly used as a residence but with occasional gambling occurring at it a small percentage of the time.

While some may think that this occasional gambling in a private residence would also permit online gambling, it’s questionable as to whether the gambling was “conducted” in the residence versus elsewhere, where the servers are, and the other end of this internet connection definitely involves the participation of an operator, which would exclude it from this exemption.

Virginia’s new casino bill is definitely interesting, with an array of conditions stipulated that have been changed during the process as the stakeholders look to hammer out something that everyone can live with.

Land-Based Gambling in Virginia

Virginia has very little in terms of land-based gambling or gambling period, but this is about to change if the state can finally make up its mind on how exactly to proceed on these new measures before their state government.

While people have been betting on horse races for over 400 years in Virginia, from the very time the colony was settled by Europeans. British settlers brought horses over with them, and this sport hit the ground running and has been going on ever since, in various states of legality and willingness to enforce the laws of the day against it.

The Virginia General Assembly legalized pari-mutuel horse race betting in 1978 after many years of mostly prohibiting it, leading to the completion of Colonial Downs in New Kent in 1997, which has been operating since. Colonial Downs is currently the only full-time race track in the state, and while they only offer betting on horses as a gambling option, they also offer video gaming machines resembling slots although they are used for entertainment purposes only.

Voters passed a referendum in 1987 to allow for the lottery to make a comeback in Virginia after an absence of three centuries, and the first ticket was sold to the public in 1988. The Commonwealth of Virginia has raised over $12 billion so far from lottery ticket sales, including $650 million in 2019, which funds 10% of the state’s school system.

Looking at the timeline that states have approved lotteries and pari-mutuel betting serves as a reliable temperature check. More progressive states passed lottery bills in the 1970’s, and many had betting on horses legal for decades before Virginia finally allowed it again on a larger scale than just the occasional county fair, so this alone shows us the relative reluctance Virginia has toward gambling in general, a situation that continues today.

Virginia has been able to keep out casino gambling completely until now, although they have always permitted social gambling. The fundamental objection has been toward the commercialization of gambling, which remains a force even in the moments where they are now deciding how to finally allow for it in the limited forms they are demanding.

A bill was passed in 2019 that would allow casinos in Virginia provided that a set of criteria was met. This included things like the location having an unemployment rate of greater than 4% and a poverty rate of 20% or more, as well as a population decline of 7% or more since 1990. Applications for tribal casinos would be considered in places with a population of 200,000 or more and 24% or more of its property in the area being exempt from property taxes.

Meeting all these conditions would allow a casino to potentially offer a full range of land-based gambling, including sports betting, but allowing licensure of online gambling was not included. Any approvals would be subject to a public referendum to complete the approval process.

Even though Virginia’s senate bill was signed into law by the governor, it still requires vetting by state senate committee prior to being sent off for a public vote. In the interim, a house bill has emerged, which is similar but seeks to add online gambling to the list of gambling options that a Virginia casino could offer.

Two of Virginia’s cities, Norfolk and Portsmouth, will be voting on casino referenda during the November election. Should one or both pass, this will satisfy the requirement of public assent that the government is seeking, and all that will be left is to hammer out the final details which have not yet been fully confirmed. It does look good for Virginia to finally get their first casino ever, and it looks like this will be just a matter of time.

Virginia Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

While there is talk of allowing proposed Virginia casinos to offer online gambling as well as land-based gambling at some point, it’s been challenging enough to get land-based casinos uo and running, and this is the first order or business that needs to be attended to first.

Virginia still approaches authorizing gambling as an evil of sorts instead of a pure opportunity, as would be the case if we did not have this element of prejudice against gambling generally that still plays a very prominent role in state politics. It’s one thing to be willing to look the other way to seek to help economic disparities, confining approved gambling to these areas, and quite another to open up gambling to the whole state as online gambling would do.

Online gambling is not a physically targeted approach as land-based gambling is, and to allow for state-wide online gambling would require that it be embraced in a general way, something that has some support but this support needs to grow enough before this idea becomes realistic enough to obtain general assent.

Players in Virginia are therefore faced with a conundrum should they wish to enjoy online gambling. They can sit back and continue to wait until online gambling becomes legal in their state, and it clearly is not now, or do what many gamblers do when they wish to gamble but it isn’t legal, which is to gamble anyway and stand in opposition to the law.

It is no secret that many continue to gamble in the face of illegality, whereby they decide that such laws are unjust and refuse to obey them. There are practical consequences of this, and even though the number of arrests related to illegal gambling in Virginia is very low, averaging only 26 a year, there is at least some risk involved.

There has never been a case where a player has ever got arrested in Virginia or anywhere else in the country for online gambling though, not because authorities aren’t interested in going after people doing this, but because they really don’t have a way to do it. Even though the risk is non-existent, players who still feel uncomfortable can merely access their favorite online gambling sites through a virtual private network, or VPN, which renders browsing completely anonymous, not that anyone is looking anyway.

Those who are up for it will find some very good sites available among all of the ones that are offered to residents of Virginia, real money online gambling sites that offer the best gambling the internet has to offer, if you know where to go. We show you the best sites, and you decide.

Future of Gambling in Virginia

Virginia is on the brink of massive changes in the way that they see gambling. Virginia has over 400 years of gambling and this will be the first time that the state has authorized anything but horse race betting and buying lottery tickets.

While it is very encouraging that Virginia has been able to finally see their way to approving real money casinos of any sort, to use this as a tool to help out struggling local economies, they still need to get past the idea that there is a significant downside or any downside to the benefits of allowing casino gambling.

While it’s fine to focus on areas more needy, where the stimulus of casinos may create more jobs in desired areas, Virginia needs to be conditioning its responses to the market more, to get the most out of this both in terms of tax revenue and economic effects. It would be more efficient to leave the distributive part of this to politics and allow the industry to grow according to market demand. This would ensure that they are at least trying to maximize the output from this and also maximize their take, which they can then hand out to address the disparities they are looking to improve.

While the Commonwealth of Virginia continues to contemplate real money online gambling being regulated by the state someday, like in other states that haven’t come to the decision to allow it yet, many players from Virginia and throughout the country who have been denied access to real money online gambling are re-thinking what this denial really cashes out to.

Ultimately, this means that they will need to simply look elsewhere, where they may be denied using their credit cards and other easy means of depositing and withdrawing at online gambling sites, although players from Virginia that really wish to play have no trouble doing either, especially since so many offshore sites accept Bitcoin now, the perfect partner for offshore online gambling due to its anonymity.

The second element here and the one that really needs to be heeded is the need for the right guidance in venturing off on your own into the world, beyond the friendly confines of Virginia regulation and into a world far less known, one that can be very friendly if you are kept on the right path. You’re in the right place.

Virginia Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • How did gambling in Virginia start?

    Virginia boasts the first permanent settlement in the British American colonies, over 400 years ago. The sport of horse racing, the sport of kings, hit the ground running in Virginia as the wealthy loaded them right off their ships to race them against one another. This was a time when horse race betting was a private affair, where you bet on your own horses and not those owned by others, and this limited the field to those of significant means. Those who worked for a living were not welcome and even charged with a crime.

  • What caused Virginia to view gambling negatively for so long?

    It was just a matter of time until the opposition to gambling by the majority had its say, in an environment where gambling was limited to a small majority who eventually lost the fight. The view that gambling was sinful was a popular enough one in this day, but particularly popular in some states such as Virginia. Even as Virginia moves toward finally allowing casinos, this idea hasn’t been fully exorcized and still serves to limit expansion.

  • What does Virginia law say about gambling?

    Virginia’s gambling prohibitions are as encompassing as they come. Gambling period is banned, and if you place any sort of wager on something that is in any way contingent, depending on an element of unknown in any way, you are breaking the law in Virginia. With this in place, they turn around and tell you exactly what sort of gambling you can partake in, which is exactly what they want.

  • Does Virginia go after gambling operators, gamblers, or both?

    Some states make gambling itself a crime, and attempt to restrict it by the threat of conviction that they hang over the heads of players. Some other states confine themselves to preventing the operation of gambling, where it may not be against the law to gamble but it is a crime to operate or promote gambling. Virginia both criminalizes the act of the gambling and the promotion of gambling.

  • What gambling options does Virginia offer now?

    Like with some states, Virginia’s main objection is the commercialization of it, and not so much the act of gambling itself. This is why they allow for social gambling but do not permit commercial gambling in any form other than that offered by the state lottery or betting on horses at licensed tracks. They do have the lottery and a racetrack, and the opportunity to gamble socially, but that’s it. There is more on the way soon though.

  • How is Virginia’s new casino bill coming along?

    After over four centuries, casino gambling is finally going to be coming to Virginia, with the potential for a total of 5 to be built. Two of these proposed casinos are on the ticket for public vote, which the state has mandated as part of the requirements to allow real money casino gambling for the first time in state history. After so long in darkness, Virginia has finally seen the light and we’re just waiting for the process to unfold to make this a reality soon.

  • How is Virginia approaching getting into the casino business?

    There still is a meaningful degree of reluctance with the Commonwealth of Virginia allowing casino gambling, which is a reason why they are looking to get the most bang from their buck by initially limiting it to more distressed areas. It is as if there is a balancing between the benefits from allowing gambling with something else, reasons not to do it, although these aren’t made transparent. However, it turns out that where the people live also happen to be where the economic growth is needed, and this should work out similarly to what would happen if not for this focus.

  • Will Virginia be rolling out real money online gambling soon?

    There actually is an element within Virginia politics that is not only open to the idea of offering online gambling, but even have a bill that they are looking to pass to permit it, among 20 different bills that are currently floating in the Virginian legislative air. The threshold in Virginia is fairly high though and the word is that it may be some time before they start allowing online gambling in addition to letting people do it the old-fashioned way.

  • Can Virginians gamble online now if they wish to?

    Aside from the fact that Virginians gambling online would be contrary to Virginia law, as state law does not permit any form of gambling in this state, and betting online does constitute betting while in the state, many residents partake in real money online gambling anyway. Should one wish to proceed anyway, those aware that there is no real risk of getting caught doing this, one can find some high-quality sites to play at with the right guidance.

  • How do Virginians find the best real money gambling sites out there right now?

    There is a whole world out there beyond the borders of the United States as far as online gambling goes, and it is actually pretty easy to go out there into this foreign world and find someone who will pull you into their online casino. Relying on barkers or anyone biased in their recommendations is not what you should want to rely on. Instead, players need recommendations based upon what serves their needs, from independent experts.

Lead Writer: Toby is a very experienced online gambler who particularly enjoys sharing his knowledge with others and guiding them toward more enjoyment in their own play.

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