The U.S. Supreme Court is now the only thing standing in the way of West Virginia sports betting.
According to Legal Sports Report, West Virginia passed the WV Sports Lottery Wagering Act March 9, even without the governor’s signature.
With the bill’s passage, West Virginia becomes the first state of 2018 to pass a sports betting law and the sixth state overall in recent years.
While the House and Senate tore apart the measure before passing it, Gov. Jim Justice remained relatively silent. He did not veto the bill, despite public pressure. He may instead choose to call a special session to revisit the issue once the U.S. Supreme Court makes its decision.
Justice said this in a press release Friday evening:
“After the U.S. 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.”
How the sports betting bill became law
The bill fast-tracked through the state House and Senate less than six weeks after it was introduced. There was a single sports betting bill in 2017. Then four different wagering bills ended up in the legislature at the start of this year.
The bill that passed (S 415) came from the Lottery Commission after a full year of research.
The law will give the state’s five gaming facilities the opportunity to offer sports betting with Lottery oversight for the price tag of $100,000. The state expects $5 million in total tax revenue in its first year.
The NBA and MLB turned out to be the largest opponents of the bill. This could be an indication that they want in on the action with an integrity fee.
Here are the particulars of the new law:
- Wagering in pro and collegiate sporting events
- Set a minimum age of 21 for wagering
- Authorize online and mobile wagering, if the lottery commission approves it
- Create a structure for sports betting operators to get a license via a $250,000 application fee
- Enable West Virginia to receive a 10 percent tax on gross gaming revenue from operators
- Lay the foundation for integrity monitoring for sports wagering compared to real-world events
West Virginia has a history in sports betting
West Virginia is no stranger to sports betting legislation.
In January, the state introduced a sports wagering bill in the Senate and revived a piece of legislation in the House of Delegates: S 106 and H 2751. The two bills, almost identical, chose the State Lottery Commission as the designator of sports betting rules and regulation.
Furthermore, the legislation also called for a special revenue account to place a tax on bets and other fees, as determined by the Commission. The legislation also called out U.S. Congress as having no authority over state government authorization of sports betting as a form of gaming.
While other sports betting bills turned for the worst (similar to DFS), West Virginia does have two years of exploration under its belt.
Uncharacteristically for these types of bills, West Virginia has not burdened operators with a high tax rate or integrity fee (that sports leagues lobby for).
The case that started it all
In November 2016, West Virginia joined 19 other states in filing an amicus briefing in support of New Jersey in Christie vs. NCAA.
With seven casinos statewide, it’s likely that the state will wait to open any sports books until the Supreme Court gives the go-ahead in the Christie vs. NCAA case.
In December, SCOTUS heard arguments regarding the nature of sports betting and the issues with consumer protection and the massive illegal sports betting market.
This case pits New Jersey against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 to make sports betting legal beyond Nevada.
This game changer would reverse status quo. Nevada maintains legal sports betting as does Delaware, in part, with limited parlay sports betting, and Montana, with game square wagering.
The American Gaming Association also changed its view on PASPA.
It doesn’t help the naysayers that Nevada’s record-breaking sports betting handle came in at $247.8 million in 2017.
Another option of repeal for proponents is the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act (GAME). Introduced by Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), the GAME Act, would potentially remove federal liability for gaming, keep federal oversight, and protect state rights.
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States are eager to join in
West Virginia is the only one stepping up to the plate. There are 15 other states considering sports betting legalization:
- West Virginia
- South Carolina
- New York
- Rhode Island
In fact, the majority of Americans support the idea.
Already, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Connecticut passed legislation to kick in once the federal law gets thrown out.
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