Virginia lawmaker wants to legalize sports betting by next year

A Northern Virginia lawmaker wants to see legal sports gambling in Virginia by next year.

Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) tells FOX 5 he is working on legislation to legalize sports betting that he will introduce during the next session of the General Assembly, which starts in January.

"I think there will be some appetite for this," Simon said. "I think there is certainly a revenue opportunity in Virginia. We already see a lot of our residents' dollars go across the river to the MGM casino, and we lose out on a lot of opportunities to capture some of that revenue."

While there are no casinos in Virginia, Simon believes there are other opportunities for a sportsbook.

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"I think you can probably find a way to combine sportsbooks with the existing horse racing and off-track betting that exists," he said. "And there is probably a way to facilitate online sports gaming as well."

It's been five months since a Supreme Court ruling paved the way for legal sports betting. So far, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia. Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico have adopted laws to legalize it in their states.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are considering a bill that would bring sports betting to the District as early as spring of 2019. While an effort to take the issue to voters in Maryland failed this year, lawmakers are hopeful there will be a referendum in 2020.

Simon says his bill would legalize sports betting as of July 2019.

"I wouldn't be surprised at all if the folks in the General Assembly decide it needs another year of study so we can figure out how it might work," Simon said. "That said, I want to get the process started."

He said he is also working on a companion bill that would serve as a sports betters bill of rights.

"So consumers and people who engage in this kind of activity will have some basic consumer protections and they can feel confident that their money will be protected and they are participating in a fair game."

For now, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is staying neutral on the issue.

"Governor Northam believes any future proposal to expand sports gaming here in Virginia should be considered with the input of the General Assembly and the communities that will be impacted in order to fully assess the benefits and potential consequences for existing industries and businesses," said Ofirah Yheskel, a spokesperson for the governor.

Stay with FOX 5 after Thursday Night Football for a look at the nearest sports betting options to the DMV and details on the big money at stake.