Virginia’s sportsbooks bounced back with more than $180 million in wagering in August, a modest surge after July’s low. The gains in August were made in part because Virginians were offered their first opportunity to bet on early season football, offering a limited sample of what will likely be record-breaking months ahead for the commonwealth’s fledgling sports betting market, according to PlayVirginia, which offers news and analysis of the Virginia’s sports betting market.
“Baseball did much of the heavy lifting in August, but NFL futures betting, preseason football, and a small sampling of college games make a significant difference for sportsbooks,” said Dann Stupp, lead analyst for PlayVirginia.com. “Seeing any gain is a breath of fresh air after what was the typical slow period for the industry. But August’s gains are just a foreshadow for what will certainly be the busiest stretch since Virginia launched sports betting in January.”
Bettors placed $182.4 million in wagers at Virginia’s sportsbooks in August, up 12.7% from $161.9 million in July, according to data released Friday by The Virginia Lottery. The pace of betting grew to $5.9 million per day over the 31 days of August, topping $5.2 million over the 31 days of July, which was the lowest daily volume in any month this year.
Gross gaming revenue did fall 10.0% to $18.0 million from to $20.0 million in July. That created $8.7 million in adjusted gross revenue, yielding $1.4 million in state taxes, including $34,463 for problem gambling support.
Despite the gains, August’s handle and revenue totals were still well below the highs hit in March, which brought $304.1 million in wagers and $26.6 million in gross revenue. Virginia, though, remains on one of the fastest tracks of any legal sports betting market in U.S. history, attracting $1.7 billion in wagers and $145.0 million in gross gaming revenue since launching in January.
But the final four months of 2021 should bring the market to new heights with full schedules of college and NFL football. In 2020, a year marred by the shutdown of major sports for months, 60.2% of the money wagered legally in the U.S. was placed from September through December. In 2019, 50.8% of all legal wagers were made during the last four months of the year.
“We are entering the most important four months for Virginia’s sports betting industry, and it will be exciting to see how Virginia bettors respond to a full schedule of football,” said Eric Ramsey, analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayVirginia.com. “It is a great bet that from September through the end of the year, the commonwealth’s sportsbooks will shatter just about every record that was set earlier this year.”
The roster of operators in Virginia continues to shift, which is expected during football season. Barstool Sports debuted in August, and Golden Nugget is gearing up for its own launch, pledging funds to five Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Meanwhile, BlueBet Holdings abandoned its pursuit of a license.
Operators often target football season to debut, aiming to capitalize on increased interest. Football season represents an important opportunity for established operators, too.
“College football and the NFL will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in bets at Virginia’s sportsbooks, which is important on its own,” Stupp said. “With increased engagement comes a chance for sportsbooks to grow their customer base. A good promotional strategy set over the summer should start to pay off in September.”