A senator was annoyed by a “Virginia is for Bettors” ad. Now he wants to ban them.

Gambling companies that run ads with the slogan “Virginia is for bettors” could be fined $50,000 under a law proposed by a state senator who said he believes that the phrase violated the famous tourist slogan “Virginia is for lovers”.

Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, said he was inspired to introduce the bill after hearing a radio commercial while driving to Richmond.

“Frankly, I was bored with it,” Norment told a Senate gambling subcommittee last month. “We’ve spent a lifetime trying to market ‘Virginia is for lovers.’ I just felt there was intrusion.

The state Senate passed the 40-0 bill this week, and it does not appear to have drawn opposition from casino operators or sports betting companies.

That was a different story with an earlier version of the bill, which would have prohibited gambling interests from using the state’s name entirely. The bill was scaled down, Norment said, after the first draft “caused some people in the gaming industry to get excited about it.”

Minority Leader Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City. (2020 Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Norment said lawyers have suggested that trademark protections may already prevent gambling ads from playing with the state’s slogan. But he wanted to make it clear that the phrase was prohibited.

“I’d rather it be out there blatantly than have people look at the federal code and trademark and patent registrations,” Norment said.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation has registered “Virginia is for Lovers” as a Federal Trademark, along with “Virginia is for Wine Lovers”, “Virginia is for Craft Beer Lovers”, and “Virginia is for Film Lovers”.

Similar marks sought by non-governmental groups include: “Virginia is for Hustlers”, “Virginia is for Grubbers”, “Virginia is for Ballers”, and “Virginia is for Stoners”.

The bill still needs to be approved by the House of Delegates and Governor Glenn Youngkin before becoming law.

There was little discussion of the bill, apart from one senator who jokingly wondered how it might apply to a slightly different arrangement of words.

“Could you say Virginia is for betting lovers?” asked Sen. John Bell, D-Loudoun.

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