Virginia betting regulation “insufficient” according to critical report

Gambling in Virginia is not being regulated to the necessary degree following the state’s embrace of mobile betting, according to a report issued this week by the Joint Law Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), a body which evaluates legal oversight in the state. The lead findings of the review held that there are too many bodies involved in the regulation of gambling, leading to some issues falling through the gaps, and that only one of the three bodies has been adequately staffed since the adoption of legal gambling in the state.

As of this moment, the bodies concerned with regulating legal gambling in Virginia are: The Virginia Lottery, which has control over sports betting and casinos; the Virginia Racing Commission, which oversees both horse racing, and racing-themed slot machines at the multi-location Rosie’s Gaming Emporium; and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), which is responsible for charity gaming.

While the report finds that the Virginia Lottery is up to the job of regulating sports and casino betting, it states that since the expansion of gambling in the state, the latter two bodies have been incapable of handling the job they are supposed to do. It suggests that the split function of gambling regulation in Virginia is to blame for much of the difficulty and that since the expansion, there have been notable examples of the Racing Commission and DACS failing to carry out their stated aims, with lack of sufficient staffing blamed for this.

Specifically, because gambling regulation is a secondary duty of both the Racing Commission and DACS, it is felt that both bodies lack the technology and infrastructure to ensure that the gambling under their watch is overseen with integrity. The Virginia Lottery, which is specifically designed to handle gambling issues, would be a better choice to carry out the work of gambling oversight on its own, taking horse racing and all charitable gaming under its purview.

Among the issues that have arisen were a lack of inspectors within the Racing Commission to oversee the 2,600 horse racing slot machines at Rosie’s locations, thus being unable to confirm that machines are maintained properly and are fair. Additionally, while most stakeholders in the state’s gambling industry are required by law to sign up to initiatives on safer gambling and on gambing addiction, the Racing Commission is not required to do so, and therefore does not.

As regards DASC, the charitable gaming sector it oversees was previously relatively small, accounting only for bingo and raffles. But this sector has become much wider and had a $1.5 billion turnover last year. Organizations tasked with carrying out charitable gambling are supposed to ensure that a minimum 10% of proceeds are turned over to charity. In 50% of cases, this has not been done.

While there will be some question over whether taking over the additional areas of gambling would cause overload for the state lottery, it at least seems capable of handling the expansion and adding the staff that would be needed. Time will tell if the state acts on this report.

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