Virginia Gambling Laws + Statutes
All over the United States, people are in a love affair. Whether it’s the mystifying power of the “high-roller” figure or the tragic romance of the degenerate gambler who always feels one big win away from turning his life around, Hollywood has done their best to glamorize the activity as much as possible. Of course, these are not examples of what maintaining a responsible and fun gambling hobby in real life is actually like, but it has certainly piqued the interest of the country at large, and residents of Virginia are certainly no exception. This is why aspiring bettors need to understand Virginia gambling laws.
While federal law does go after the business gambling, contrary to popular belief, it does not actually outlaw or impact the actual act of betting or gambling, merely the unlicensed facilitation of it. From here, many states in the union take it upon themselves to add further restrictions and regulations to gambling legislation, and, unfortunately for residents of Virginia, their home state indeed further restricts gambling action.
The purpose of this page is to educate Virginia residents in as much detail as possible on the laws that have a direct impact on their ability to gamble, and to instruct them on how to do so responsibly in as safe and legal a manner possible.
Legality of Virginia Gambling - Will I Get In Trouble?
Whereas some states leave a degree of legal wiggle room to allow their residents to legally gamble so long as they adhere to a select few rules and restrictions, Virginia is not one of those states. Chapter 18.2-325 section 1 strictly defines “illegal gambling” as “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.”
In fairly plain language, this bill strikes down any chance one in Virginia has of legally gambling anywhere within their home state. Violation of this law is a class 3 misdemeanor, which does not carry a jail sentence, but can cause an offender to be fined upwards of $500.
However, there is some good news in relation to this strict anti-gambling law. The legislation surrounding “illegal gambling” is antiquated at best, and is not generally enforced even as a means to shut down gambling. Never in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia has an otherwise honest resident been placed under arrest merely for participating in gambling. The target of all gambling stings lies in the facilitation of gambling, and not really its participation. Even in the breakup of illegal gambling rings, such as the SWAT team seizure of funds from a high stakes gambling den in January of 2015, none of the players involved in the bust were brought up on charges.
However, this should not be read to mean that all gambling related offenses are merely given lip service and that one has no need to fear prosecution. In Virginia, one must be careful to avoid the charge of “Conducting Gambling,” which will indeed be enforced within the state. Chapter 18.2-326 of Virginia legislation defines this offense as a class 6 felony which can result in a prison sentence of 1-5 years and a legal fine of $2,500.
Virginia residents who wish to avoid any legal attention or penalties need to be careful to avoid this course of action at all costs.
Difference Between Illegal Gambling & Conducting Gambling
The distinction between the act of “Illegal Gambling”, which is never prosecuted and even in the most extreme hypothetical case would result in a $500 fine, and “Conducting Gambling”, which is a felony that will most assuredly send a Virginia resident to jail for an extended period of time, is actually fairly clear.
When one bets or gambles, they turn their money over to someone who either operates the game or facilitates the bet. That person taking the money is “conducting” the gambling operation. In conjunction with actually taking and processing the bets involved, one guilty of conducting gambling will usually be making a profit off the event.
To be clear, this does not mean that they are wagering and winning money, this means that the offender is putting themselves in a position where they may collect money without actually placing any bets themselves. The most popular means of doing this are usually via charging admission for the privilege to play a game or collecting a “rake” (a small percentage of the pots from each hand as profit to the house) from each hand. This also applies to operating a sportsbook or even to selling merchandise at a significant markup throughout the duration of a game.
Just so long as a resident of Virginia avoid these specific, gambling related activities, they should be successful in avoiding any legal interference for breaking Virginia gambling laws.
Betting Laws That Affect Virginia Residents
When the federal government passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 1992 in the interest of cracking down on sanctioned sports betting facilitation, however, upon its passage, a few states were granted exceptions. Virginia was not one of those states.
While it remains incredibly unlikely a Virginia resident will ever face legal trouble for the mere act of betting on a sports game, there are severe penalties associated with bookmaking. While this makes it difficult to find and land based betting options for Virginia residents, there are several legal sportsbooks available online.
While some states with stringent anti-gambling laws can sometimes rely on the federally exempt tribal casinos to give them solace, there are no such casinos within the state of Virginia. This means that there are no legally operating brick-and-mortar casinos offering slots, blackjack, or any other popular casino table games.
Once again, the internet can be an option for Virginia residents hoping to find any means to gamble without needing to leave their home state.
In order to allow state sanctioned poker, which is by far one of the most popular means of gambling, many states exempt “games of skill” from their definition of gambling. Once again, and following in form to policies with the rest of the state, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not fall into this category.
Much like any other casino games, there are no sanctioned facilities offering poker to the general public. If Virginia residents wish to enjoy games of poker without worrying about legal ramifications, they will need to stick to private home games or carefully research a legal poker website.
Legal Gambling Age In Virginia
For residents of Virginia who have an interest in gambling, they would certainly be best served by waiting until they are of an appropriate age to do so. The good news is that in the Commonwealth of Virginia, this only means waiting until they turn 18. At this age, Virginia residents will be able to play the lottery and enroll in online gambling communities.
Underage gamblers caught in violation of this rule will not only have to deal with penalties from the Virginia gambling laws such as legal fines and community service assignments (TIP: this kind of community service does NOT look good on a college resume) but whichever facility they are caught gambling with will most likely institute a lifelong ban as well as seize any funds related to their gambling winnings. There are a few things in life worth waiting for, and the ability to gamble legally is one of them.
Where Can I Gamble In Virginia?
On-Land: As one may guess from the steep legal penalties associated with “Conducting Gambling,” there are no legal and reputable outlets for land based gambling within the state of Virginia. Just as in all Commonwealths with such strict gambling regulation, there is an active underground gambling community, however, due to the great personal risk one would run not only to their own person, but especially to their hard earned money, this is not a recommended course of action.
Online/Web-Based: Luckily for Virginia residents, there are a litany of legal gambling websites that they may sign up with. It has already been established on this page that while gambling is technically unregulated, it is not something that is heavily enforced.
Enter legal gambling websites. One many wonder how, in a Commonwealth with such stringent penalties associated with the facilitation of gambling these websites may exist. The answer is simple. By being established and maintained in foreign nations, these sites are well outside the jurisdiction of not only state but federal laws as well. Since these websites are able to function legally in their home countries and Virginia residents do not need to fear prosecution based on the mere act of gambling, they can rest assured that any games played or bets made with these websites will be free from legal interference.
While the prospect of gambling with a foreign entity may make some Virginia residents nervous, they should rest assured that the benefits of these sites operating legally is twofold. First, since these sites are in no danger of being shut down by legal agencies, all of the money you deposit will be completely safe. Secondly, since all these sites must be certified by reputable international agencies like the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, fair play and reliable, speedy payouts are assured to all users. The best deal for gambling for Virginia residents lies in these online networks, and they are such a great deal any new user is bound to forget their woes from lack of options in record time.
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However, the best thing about this Virginia gambling site is not the quality of the product, it’s the quality of the service. With a litany of sign up deals ranging up to 100% of your initial deposit right back in the form of bonus money, there is simply no online network as good as Bovada as hooking new customers, and then hanging on to them by giving them access to a Cracker Jack support team that is available via phone or email 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Missing out on a chance to join Bovada is like missing out on one of the greatest products of our generation, don’t let it pass you by!
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We here at VirginiaGamblingLaws.com are not lawyers, we're lovers...and that is what Virginia is for! While the information assembled on this page is factual to the best of our knowledge, this cannot be considered an official consultation. If you have any further questions regarding Virginia gambling laws, please consult the Commonwealth's legislature via their website to study Virginia legal code that applies to gambling, or find a quality attorney that is licensed to practice in Virginia to clarify anything you need further explanation for.