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Overview of Virginia Laws Against Illegal Gambling


The Virginia Criminal Code makes it a criminal offense to engage in illegal gambling. Any person who engages in illegal gambling — or runs an illegal gambling operation — can face a lengthy prison sentence and criminal fines for their actions.

Definition of Illegal Gambling

As provided in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-325, there is a broad definition of illegal gambling under state law. Under this section, illegal gambling is :

  • The placing or making of any bet or wager with money, or other consideration, anywhere in Virginia; and
  • The bet or wager carrying a chance of winning any prize, money, or other consideration, dependent on the result of any game, contest, or similar event.

It is worth noting that the location of the game, contest, or event does not matter. While the bet or wager must be made within Virginia, the actual game can take place inside or outside of Virginia.

Punishment for Illegal Gambling

Detailed in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-326 is the punishment for illegal gambling. Illegal gambling is usually punishable as a Class 3 misdemeanor. If convicted, the offender can face a maximum fine of $500. Relatedly, if an association or group of people engages in illegal gambling, each person can be charged separately.

That being said, illegally gambling  on a horse race can result in Class 1 misdemeanor charges. If convicted, the offender can face 12 months in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. Virginia does allow legal gambling on horse races, however, if the operation is licensed and approved in accordance with state law.

Definition of Illegal Gambling Operations

As established in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-328, an illegal gambling operation is a financial enterprise, activity, or similar association. The purpose of these operations is the furtherance of, and profits from, illegal gambling.

Punishment for Illegal Gambling Operations

Section 18.2-328 also explains the punishment for illegal gambling operations. Typically, any person who engages in an illegal gambling operation is guilty of a Class 6 felony. If convicted, the offender can face one to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500.

On the other hand, Virginia law authorizes a more stringent punishment for running an illegal gambling operation. This only applies, though, if the illegal gambling operation in question:

  • Remained in existence for at least 30 days on a substantially continuous basis; or
  • Earned gross revenue of $2,000 or more during any single day.

If an illegal gambling operation meets either of the tests above, it remains a felony offense, but the punishment increases to a prison sentence of one to 10 years and a maximum fine of $20,000.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you need legal assistance with illegal gambling or other criminal offenses under Virginia law, it can be extremely helpful to have a conversation with a Winchester criminal defense lawyer. The lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have the skill and experience required to help you fight back against criminal charges, including illegal gambling and many other offenses. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.

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Contact the Leesburg, Winchester & Loudoun County Attorneys of Simms Showers LLP today

Simms Showers LLP is conveniently located two blocks from the Loudoun County Courthouse. Our criminal defense firm offers a free phone consultation for criminal or personal injury cases. Se habla español. Call Simms Showers LLP for quality legal counsel today at 703-997-7821 or contact us online.

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