West Virginia has been supporting sports betting legalization for years. Now it is taking some significant steps in codifying the activity within its own borders. West Virginia introduced a sports wagering bill in its Senate and revived a prior piece of legislation in its House of Delegates..
The bipartisan duo of Sens. Stephen Baldwin (D) and Michael Maroney (R) introduced S 106 on Jan. 10 in the Mountain State’s upper chamber.
H 2751, originally introduced in the House of Delegates by Democrat Shawn Fluharty on March 1. 2017, has resurfaced as well. H 2751 made it through the House Judiciary Committee in last year’s legislative session before petering out in the Finance Committee.
West Virginia not mincing legislative words
The two bills are essentially identical. They designate the State Lottery Commission as the overseer of sports betting rules and regulation. The proposed legislation also calls for the establishment of a special revenue account tied into sports betting. Additionally, the bills bestow the Commission with the authority to place a “tax on bets and other fees.”
The bills also contain some of the more assertive language yet seen in the numerous pieces of sports betting legislation sprouting up nationwide. In establishing what it believes to be its inherent regulatory rights as a state, the bill proclaims that “the U.S. Congress has no power to prevent state governments from authorizing sports betting as a form of gaming.” Therefore West Virginia can “proceed with legalizing sports pool betting pursuant to this article.”
Despite that wording, the current expectation is that West Virginia will await the outcome of the landmark Christie vs. NCAA Supreme Court battle before green-lighting the opening of any sports books at its seven casinos statewide.
Longtime interest, support for legalization
The latest developments aren’t exactly surprising, given West Virginia’s history with legalized sports betting efforts. The state joined 19 others in the filing of a November 2016 amicus briefing in support of New Jersey in Christie vs. NCAA.
Moreover, back in 2013, West Virginia filed amicus briefs with the Third Circuit and Supreme Courts in support of the Garden State in the first go-around of Christie vs. NCAA.
Additionally, West Virginia Lottery Commission Director Alan Larrick commissioned California-based Eilers and Krejcik Gaming in September 2017 for a $160,000 study on the potential financial impact legalized sports betting would have on West Virginia.
The results revealed a potential $34 million-$78 million annual market for the Mountain State. With each of West Virginia’s casinos potentially adding a sports book if sports betting laws change, proponents of the bills are touting the sizable boost wagering would ostensibly bring to the state’s economy and job market.
Additionally, neighboring states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania already ahead of the curve in terms of preparation for a potential legalized sports betting environment. Consequently, area lawmakers are emphasizing the importance of West Virginia keeping pace to prevent losing significant revenue in the future.
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