Virginia Casinos and Gambling
Virginia has a number of state nicknames, including “Mother of Presidents,” “Mother of States,” and “Old Dominion.”
Unfortunately, “Land of Casinos” isn’t among its monikers, as the state has long maintained a tradition of keeping tribal and commercial casinos outside of its borders.
Luckily, the state does allow some forms of gambling such as horseracing and a state lottery. If you want to learn more about the various options available to both residents and tourists, please read the following article.
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Virginia Gambling Laws
According to the definition set forth by Virginia law, illegal gambling “means the making, placing or receipt, of any bet or wager in this 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 this Commonwealth.” Anyone involved in illegal gambling is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor under the current law, while anyone placing a wager on an unlicensed horse race is committing a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Exceptions to illegal gambling include the following:
• Contests of speed or skill between animals, men, fowl, and vehicles
• Games of chance in a private residence (assuming the residence is not commonly used for such purposes)
• Bingo games, raffles, and duck races conducted by charitable organizations
• State lottery
• Pari-mutuel wagering
If you’re looking for casino games in Virginia, you’re likely to come away with a disappointed look on your face. That’s because the state doesn’t allow commercial or tribal casinos. For those who only enjoy gaming in a brick-and-mortar establishment, you’ll need to go outside the state to get your fix.
Pari-mutuel Betting in Virginia
While Virginia may not have casino gambling, they do offer Colonial Downs, one of the most popular horseracing tracks in the United States. Both thoroughbred and harness races take place there, and there are more than 95 wagering stations ready to accept your wager. Thoroughbred season takes place during the summer months, while harness racing is held in the fall.
During other times of the year, events such as rodeos and motorcycle racing take place at the facility.
Located in New Kent, Virginia, the track opens at noon on Saturday and Sunday and 5pm on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. Up to 10,000 people can be seated in the grandstands, and simulcast stations are also available for those who want to watch the ponies in a more air-conditioned environment.
In addition to the Colonial Downs racetrack, bettors can also try their luck at several off-track betting sites scattered throughout the state. For those who prefer the convenience of online wagering, advance deposits can also be made through the EZ Horse Play site.
Virginia State Lottery
Virginia has a long tradition of state lotteries. In fact, the “Great Virginia Lottery” was held as far back as 1612 in order to fund the floundering Jamestown Settlement. Over the years, it was also used to assist with the construction of churches, libraries, and even colleges such as William & Mary and the University of Virginia. This continued until 1849, when all forms of gambling were made illegal throughout the state.
In 1987, Virginia residents voted to allow a state lottery, and it’s been in operation ever since. The original referendum did not designate how the generated funds were supposed to be spent, so they were initially earmarked for capital construction projects. From 1990 to 1998, the money was then assigned to the state’s general fund. Since 1999, however, all funds have been designated for K-12 education.
In addition to scratch-off games and the newer Fast Play option that determines a ticket’s winning status when it’s printed at the terminal, the state also offers the following:
• Pick 3 – The player attempts to make three matches for a top prize of $500.
• Pick 4 – The player attempts to make four matches for a top prize of $5,000.
• Cash 5 – Match 5 numbers from a pool of 34 and win a top prize of $100,000.
• $1,000,000 Money Ball – Held twice a week, this lottery awards $100,000 to players who match all 5 drawn balls. If the additional Cash Ball is also matched, then the winnings increase to $1 million.
• Millionaire Raffle – Held during certain times of the year with a top prize of $1 million.
• Cash4Life – A jackpot can choose between $1,000-per-day per life or an immediate payout of $7 million in cash.
• PowerBall – Players try to match 5 balls numbering from 1 to 59, as well as a PowerBall from 1 to 35. Correctly matching all numbers awards the player a minimum jackpot of $40 million.
• Mega Millions – A multi-state game with a starting jackpot of $15 million.
Owning a Slot Machine in Virginia
While the state doesn’t want casinos within its borders, it appears to have no problem with private residents owning slot machines. According to Virginia Code 18.2-334, slots of any age can be owned by citizens. This is a departure from the law in many states, where a machine must be at least 25 years old before it can be owned and displayed.
Of course, there’s a big difference between being able to legally own a slot machine and charging your neighbors for the right to play. Even though ownership of these games is allowed, it’s still illegal to generate a profit with them on any consistent basis. This would make you the owner of a casino (albeit a tiny one), and those are expressly forbidden by law.
Virginia casinos are non-existent, at least in any legal form, so you’ll need to seek this kind of gaming elsewhere. This puts the state far down the list of the best places to gamble in the United States, although the presence of horseracing and a state lottery keeps it from being a complete loss. At the very least, residents should be able to lock the doors, pull the blinds, and enjoy casino gaming action at any online site brave enough to defy the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.