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What Constitutes Illegal Gambling in Virginia?


From March Madness brackets to back-alley dice games or online poker, there seem to be many examples of gambling in life these days. Outside of certain exceptions — such as licensed horse racing, private residences, and the state lottery — however, gambling remains largely illegal across the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a result, it is important for everyone to have a firm grasp of what classifies as illegal gambling under Virginia law.

Illegal Gambling

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-325 provides the definition of illegal gambling. In order to qualify as illegal gambling under Virginia law, a person must:

  • Make, place, or receive a bet or wager;
  • Using money or a similar thing of value;
  • On a game, contest, or similar event of an uncertain outcome; and
  • For a chance at winning a prize, stake, or similar consideration.

So long as the bet or wager occurs in Virginia, it can qualify as illegal gambling under Section 18.2-325. This is true even if the game, contest, or event in question occurs outside of Virginia.

Code of Virginia Section 18.2-326 details the penalties for illegal gambling. In most cases, this offense is a Class 3 misdemeanor in Virginia. Upon conviction, the offender typically faces a maximum fine of $500.

That being said, there is a different penalty structure for illegal gambling in the horse-racing context. Certain horse-racing venues are licensed by the Virginia Racing Commission to conduct gambling activities. Any gambling on horse races outside of the licensed context is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, punishable by one year in jail and $2,500 in fines.

Illegal Gambling Operators

Section 18.2-325 also defines the term operator in the illegal gambling setting. Specifically, an illegal gambling operator is any person or group of people who:

  • Conducts illegal gambling activities, enterprises, or operations;
  • Finances illegal gambling activities, enterprises, or operations;
  • Manages illegal gambling activities, enterprises, or operations;
  • Supervises illegal gambling activities, enterprises, or operations;
  • Directs illegal gambling activities, enterprises, or operations; or
  • Owns illegal gambling activities, enterprises, or operations.

Most people who operate illegal gambling enterprises are guilty of a Class 6 felony under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-326. The normal penalties for this offense include 12 to 60 months in prison and $2,500 in criminal fines.

On the other hand, Section 18.2-326 does highlight a more severe penalty structure for larger illegal gambling enterprise. An illegal gambling operator can face up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in criminal fines if they:

  • Operate in a continuous fashion for more than 30 days; or
  • Make at least $2,000 in gross revenue in a single day.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about illegal gambling or other criminal offenses in Virginia, it is extremely helpful to reach out to a talented criminal defense lawyer. The lawyers at Simms Showers, LLP, servicing Leesburg, Winchester, Fairfax, and Manassas, have many years of combined legal experience in criminal defense, including offenses such as illegal gambling. 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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