Legal land-based gambling in Virginia is limited to playing the lottery and wagering on out-of-state races in one of the five licensed off-track betting facilities. Local contests are not available because Virginia’s sole racetrack, Colonial Downs, was closed in 2014 due to a serious conflict with the Virginia Racing Commission. The property was even considered for a golf course at one point in 2016, but fortunately, it was purchased by a Chicago-based company called Revolutionary Racing. The new owners are now renovating the track and want to reopen it in the fall of 2019.
In addition, local lawmakers allowed Revolutionary Racing to open one gambling facility in New Kent County. This facility will offer horse racing-themed electronic games of chance and will likely open its doors in early 2019. Virginia is also home to the Pamunkey Tribe, which managed to win federal recognition in January 2016. The Pamunkey have already expressed an interest in building a casino resort on their reservation, but they haven’t signed a gambling compact with the state yet.
Things are looking almost just as dire for online gambling. Virginia defines gambling as “making, placing, or receiving any bet or wager of money or other thing of value, dependent upon the result of any game, contest, or event, the outcome of which is uncertain or a matter of chance.” There is no specific prohibition on iGaming, but the general definition is broad enough to allow the prosecution of people who play on offshore sites. Participating in unlawful gambling is generally classified as a Class 3 misdemeanor. The only exception is gambling on the outcome of a horse race outside of a licensed facility, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor. On a brighter note, Virginia residents are free to participate in paid DFS contests – local lawmakers passed a bill legalizing this gambling form in early 2016.
Gambling in Virginia is covered by the Code of Virginia, Section 18.2-325 et seq. and 59.1-364 et seq. The minimum gambling age is 18.
§ 11-14. Gaming contracts void.
Except as otherwise provided in this section, all wagers, conveyances, assurances, and all contracts and securities whereof the whole or any part of the consideration is money or other valuable thing won, laid, or bet, at any game, horse race, sport or pastime, and all contracts to repay any money knowingly lent at the time and place of such game, race, sport or pastime, to any person for the purpose of so gaming, betting, or wagering, or to repay any money so lent to any person who shall, at such time and place, so pay, bet or wager, shall be utterly void.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a contract governing the distribution of state lottery proceeds shall be valid and enforceable as between the parties to the contract.
§ 11-15. Recovery of money or property lost in gaming.
Any person who shall, by playing at any game or betting on the sides or hands of such as play at any game, lose within twenty-four hours, the sum or value of five dollars, or more, and pay or deliver the same, or any part thereof, may, within three months next following, recover from the winner, the money or the value of the goods so lost and paid or delivered, with costs of suit in civil action, either by suit or warrant, according to the amount or value thereof.
§ 11-16. Bill by loser; repayment discharges winner from punishment.
Such loser may file a bill in equity against such winner, who shall answer the same, and upon discovery and repayment of the money or property so won, or its value, such winner shall be discharged from any forfeiture or punishment which he may have incurred for winning the same.
§ 18.2-325. Definitions.
1. “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.
For the purposes of this subdivision and notwithstanding any provision in this section to the contrary, the making, placing, or receipt of any bet or wager of money or other thing of value shall include the purchase of a product, Internet access, or other thing, which purchase credits the purchaser with free points or other measurable units that may be (i) risked by the purchaser for an opportunity to win additional points or other measurable units that are redeemable by the purchaser for money or (ii) redeemed by the purchaser for money, and but for the free points or other measurable units, with regard to clauses (i) and (ii), the purchase of the product, Internet access, or other thing (a) would be of insufficient value in and of itself to justify the purchase or (b) is merely incidental to the chance to win money.
2. “Interstate gambling” means the conduct of an enterprise for profit which engages in the purchase or sale within the Commonwealth of any interest in a lottery of another state or country whether or not such interest is an actual lottery ticket, receipt, contingent promise to pay, order to purchase, or other record of such interest.
3. “Gambling device” includes:
a. Any device, machine, paraphernalia, equipment, or other thing, including books, records and other papers, which are actually used in an illegal gambling operation or activity, and
b. Any machine, apparatus, implement, instrument, contrivance, board or other thing, or electronic or video versions thereof, including but not limited to those dependent upon the insertion of a coin or other object for their operation, which operates, either completely automatically or with the aid of some physical act by the player or operator, in such a manner that, depending upon elements of chance, it may eject something of value or determine the prize or other thing of value to which the player is entitled; provided, however, that the return to the user of nothing more than additional chances or the right to use such machine is not deemed something of value within the meaning of this subsection; and provided further, that machines that only sell, or entitle the user to, items of merchandise of equivalent value that may differ from each other in composition, size, shape or color, shall not be deemed gambling devices within the meaning of this subsection.
Such devices are no less gambling devices if they indicate beforehand the definite result of one or more operations but not all the operations. Nor are they any less a gambling device because, apart from their use or adaptability as such, they may also sell or deliver something of value on a basis other than chance.
4. “Operator” includes any person, firm or association of persons, who conducts, finances, manages, supervises, directs or owns all or part of an illegal gambling enterprise, activity or operation.
§ 18.2-326. Penalty for illegal gambling.
Except as otherwise provided in this article, any person who illegally gambles or engages in interstate gambling as defined in § 18.2-325 shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. If an association or pool of persons illegally gamble, each person therein shall be guilty of illegal gambling.
However, if any person makes, places, or receives any bet or wager of money or other thing of value on a horse race in the Commonwealth, whether the race is inside or outside the limits of the Commonwealth at any place or through any means other than (i) at a racetrack licensed by the Virginia Racing Commission pursuant to Chapter 29 (§ 59.1-364 et seq.) of Title 59.1 or (ii) at a satellite facility or through advance deposit account wagering, as those terms are defined in § 59.1-365, licensed by the Virginia Racing Commission pursuant to Chapter 29 (§ 59.1-364 et seq.) of Title 59.1, such person shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. For the purposes of this paragraph, venue shall be in any county or city in which any act was performed in furtherance of any course of conduct constituting illegal gambling.
§ 18.2-327. Winning by fraud; penalty.
If any person while gambling cheats or by fraudulent means wins or acquires for himself or another money or any other valuable thing, he shall be fined not less than five nor more than ten times the value of such winnings. This penalty shall be in addition to any other penalty imposed under this article.
§ 18.2-328. Conducting illegal gambling operation; penalties.
The operator of an illegal gambling enterprise, activity or operation shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. However, any such operator who engages in an illegal gambling operation which (i) has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of thirty days or (ii) has gross revenue of $2,000 or more in any single day shall be fined not more than $20,000 and imprisoned not less than one year nor more than ten years.
As used in this section, the term “gross revenue” means the total amount of illegal gambling transactions handled, dealt with, received by or placed with such operation, as distinguished from any net figure or amount from which deductions are taken, without regard to whether money or any other thing of value actually changes hands.
§ 18.2-329. Owners, etc., of gambling place permitting its continuance; penalty.
If the owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or other person in control of any place or conveyance, knows, or reasonably should know, that it is being used for illegal gambling, and permits such gambling to continue without having notified a law-enforcement officer of the presence of such illegal gambling activity, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
§ 18.2-330. Accessories to gambling activity; penalty.
Any person, firm or association of persons, other than those persons specified in other sections of this article, who knowingly aids, abets or assists in the operation of an illegal gambling enterprise, activity or operation, shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
§ 18.2-331. Illegal possession, etc., of gambling device; penalty.
A person is guilty of illegal possession of a gambling device when he manufactures, sells, transports, rents, gives away, places or possesses, or conducts or negotiates any transaction affecting or designed to affect ownership, custody or use of any gambling device, believing or having reason to believe that the same is to be used in the advancement of unlawful gambling activity. Violation of any provision of this section shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.
§ 18.2-332. Certain acts not deemed “consideration” in prosecution under this article.
In any prosecution under this article, no consideration shall be deemed to have passed or been given because of any person’s attendance upon the premises of another; his execution, mailing or delivery of an entry blank; his answering of questions, verbally or in writing; his witnessing of a demonstration or other proceeding; or any one or more thereof, where no charge is made to, paid by, or any purchase required of him in connection therewith.
§ 18.2-333. Exceptions to article; certain sporting events.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to prevent any contest of speed or skill between men, animals, fowl or vehicles, where participants may receive prizes or different percentages of a purse, stake or premium dependent upon whether they win or lose or dependent upon their position or score at the end of such contest.
Any participant who, for the purpose of competing for any such purse, stake or premium offered in any such contest, knowingly and fraudulently enters any contestant other than the contestant purported to be entered or knowingly and fraudulently enters a contestant in a class in which it does not belong, shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
§ 18.2-334. Exception to article; private residences.
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 § 18.2-325.
§ 18.2-334.2. Same; bingo games, raffles and duck races conducted by certain organizations.
Nothing in this article shall apply to any bingo game, instant bingo, raffle, or duck race conducted solely by organizations as defined in § 18.2-340.16 which have received a permit as set forth in § 18.2-340.25, or which are exempt from the permit requirement under § 18.2-340.23.
§ 18.2-334.3. Exemptions to article; state lottery.
Nothing in this article shall apply to any lottery conducted by the Commonwealth of Virginia pursuant to Chapter 40 of Title 58.1.
§ 18.2-334.4. Exemptions to article; pari-mutuel wagering.
Nothing in this article shall be construed to make it illegal to participate in any race meeting or pari-mutuel wagering conducted in accordance with Chapter 29 (§ 59.1-364 et seq.) of Title 59.1.
§ 18.2-336. Forfeiture of money, gambling devices, etc., seized from illegal gambling enterprise; innocent owners or lienors.
Repealed by Acts 2004, c. 995.
§ 18.2-337. Immunity of witnesses from prosecution.
No witness called by the Commonwealth or by the court, giving evidence either before the grand jury or in any prosecution under this article, shall ever be prosecuted for the offense being prosecuted concerning which he testifies. Such witness shall be compelled to testify and for refusing to do so may be punished for contempt.
§ 18.2-338. Enforcement of § 18.2-331 by Governor and Attorney General.
If it shall come to the knowledge of the Governor that § 18.2-331 is not being enforced in any county, city or town, the Governor may call upon the Attorney General to direct its enforcement in such county, city or town, and thereupon the Attorney General may instruct the attorney for the Commonwealth, sheriff and chief of police, if any, of such county, or the attorney for the Commonwealth and chief of police of such city, or the attorney for the Commonwealth of the county in which such town is located and the chief of police or sergeant of such town, to take such steps as may be necessary to insure the enforcement of such section in such county, city or town, and if any such officers, after receiving such instructions, shall thereafter fail or refuse to exercise diligence in the enforcement of § 18.2-331, the Attorney General shall make report thereof in writing to the Governor and to the judge of the circuit court having jurisdiction over the acts thereby prohibited, and thereupon the Attorney General upon being directed so to do by the Governor, shall take such steps as he may deem proper in directing the institution and prosecution of criminal proceedings, to secure the enforcement of § 18.2-331.
§ 18.2-339. Enjoining offenses relating to gambling.
Whenever any person shall be engaged in committing, or in permitting to be committed, or shall be about to commit, or permit, any act prohibited by any one or more of the sections in this article, the attorney for the Commonwealth of the county or city in which such act is being, or is about to be, committed or permitted, or the Attorney General of the Commonwealth, may institute and maintain a suit in equity in the appropriate court, in the name of the Commonwealth, upon the relation of such attorney for the Commonwealth, or the Attorney General, to enjoin and restrain such person from committing, or permitting, such prohibited act or acts. The procedure in any such suit shall be similar to the procedure in other suits for injunctions, except that no bond shall be required upon the granting of either a temporary or permanent injunction therein.
§ 18.2-340. County ordinances prohibiting illegal gambling.
The governing body of any county may adopt ordinances prohibiting illegal gambling and other illegal activity related thereto, including provision for forfeiture proceedings in the name of the county. Such ordinances shall not conflict with the provisions of this article or with other state laws and any penalties provided for violation of such ordinances shall not exceed a fine of $2,500 or confinement in jail for twelve months, either or both.
Virginia Charitable Gambling Provisions