West Virginia has become the sixth state to legalise gambling in North America with the West Virginia Sports Lottery Wagering Act, previously Senate Bill 415, signed into law by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice.
The West Virginia Lottery Commission will oversee the introduction of sports betting at West Virginia’s five gaming facilities if the Supreme Court lifts the federal ban on sports betting.
The case in the Supreme Court sees New Jersey trying to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 to make sports betting legal beyond Nevada.
If the outcome rules in favour of allowing sports betting, West Virginian casinos would be able to offer sports betting on pro and collegiate sports. West Virginia has five casinos, two bingo halls and pari-mutuel facilities spread out across six cities throughout the state.
Only the casinos would be allowed to host sports betting lounges. The Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is the biggest with 3,189 gaming machines and 98 table games followed by the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack. Other casinos include the Wheeling Island Casino Racetrack, the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort and the Casino Club at The Greenbrier.
A minimum age of 21 would be set for wagering but online and mobile wagering, if the lottery commission approves it, would also be allowed.
The Commission will create a structure for sports betting operators to get a license via a $250,000 application fee. Tax would be set at 10 per cent on gross gaming revenue from operators. The Commission would also look to lay the foundation for integrity monitoring for sports wagering compared to real-world events.
West Virginia has followed Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Mississippi and Pennsylvania in legalising sports betting, pending the outcome of the case.
Governor Jim Justice confirmed that the bill passed by the Legislature (SB451) permitting Sports Wagering will become law.
“After the US Supreme Court issues its decision on sports wagering, to address any provisions of the legislation that might be in conflict, I will ask the Legislature to look at the advantages of partnering with the major sports leagues. I believe there could be real value to this partnership. I expect the Supreme Court to rule on this issue in the next few months.
“This approach will allow us to develop a relationship with all the major sports leagues so that it is beneficial to everyone. If there are issues that we can address and make this model legislation that the entire country can use and duplicate, we should do so. Again, nothing can happen until the Supreme Court issues their decision, but we want to be ready when they do.”
The National Basketball Association responded by saying: “We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to call a special session to add necessary and critical safeguards to the law. We will work with all relevant parties on amendments that will protect consumers and the integrity of sports.”
A spokesperson for the Major League Baseball added: “Major League Baseball appreciates the willingness of Governor Justice to correct the significant flaws in the sports betting statute by calling a special session to amend the law. We believe that with the Governor’s leadership, the amended statute will better protect the citizens of West Virginia and the integrity of sports, and also increase revenue for the state in the long run.”
The NBA has put forward the idea of it receiving a one per cent integrity fee for providing the sport that people are going to bet on. The latest sports betting bill in new York has suggested the leagues get just a quarter of a per cent with a cap of two per cent of revenue. Governor Justice didn’t rule that out.
He explained: “I personally believe that there is a real benefit to a partnership with the major leagues, and I think there’s some cleanup work that needs to be done with the bill. And as far as a one per cent integrity fee — and now that’s down to a quarter of a per cent, which is not a lot of money to tell you the truth, and the casinos surely ought to be able to afford that. I really believe that partnership with the major leagues is something we really need to look at, and maybe cleaning it up and maybe perfecting the bill, and making it into a model legislation that maybe the whole country can use.”