Virginia sports betting advertising has come under scrutiny of a top lawmaker who wants to keep the state’s name out of gaming messaging.
Legislation pre-filed by Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment of Williamsburg would allow the state to fine sports betting and casino companies or their affiliates up to $50,000 per violation for using “Virginia” or “the Commonwealth” — another name for the state — in their Virginia advertising campaigns.
Senate Bill 96 would effectively ban any advertisement in Virginia using the terms to market sports betting or casino gaming products or services.
Norment’s bill is now before the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology in the Virginia General Assembly. It is expected to be formally introduced in the Senate when the General Assembly convenes in regular legislative session next week, on Jan. 12.
Sports betting launched online in Virginia on Jan. 21, 2021, after the state legalized sports betting in April 2020. Retail sports betting will likely launch in the state sometime in 2022.
Possible Reasons For the Legislation
Digital, TV, and billboard sportsbook advertising ramped up in Virginia after the state legalized sports betting. The advertising intensified after the mobile launch.
Why Norment wants to ban the use of the state’s name or “commonwealth” in sports betting and casino advertising is uncertain. A response to Gaming Today‘s request for comment on the bill sent to the Senator on Jan. 6 is still pending.
Norment supported passage of the final version of 2020 SB384, which legalized sports betting in Virginia.
Advertising is protected by the First Amendment, although commercial speech has less protection under the U.S. Constitution than other types of speech. Federal and state government both have some degree of regulatory control over commercial speech.
It is uncertain if SB 96 will face some kind of constitutional challenge, should it become law.