West Virginia is joining a host of other states that are contemplating the legalization of sports betting with a new bill.
The newest sports betting bill comes as a Washington D.C. think tank called on the US Congress to change federal law as it pertains to sports betting.
The West Virginia sports betting bill at a glance
State Rep. Shawn Fluharty introduced a sports betting bill on Wednesday: H 2751.
The bill would do two things, at core:
- It would legalize and regulate sports betting in the state.
- It appears to create a direct challenge to PASPA, the federal law that prohibits single-game wagering outside of Nevada.
The latter point is interesting, as it would appear to be another effort like the one in New Jersey to circumvent federal law. New Jersey has been locked in federal court cases for years as it tries to legalize sports betting
Inside the WV sports betting bill
The legislation is fairly simple at core. It establishes the authority of the state over sports betting.
Regulation and legalization
The bill declares that “sports betting games” are “not unlawful” when conduced under the rules prescribed in the legislation, under the authority of the state Lottery Commission. The commission will set up rules and licensing fees pertaining to sports betting.
It also has a unique take on taxing sports wagers that would be taken in the state, with a tax on each wager instead of total revenue:
For each bet received, the gaming facility shall pay two percent tax of the total wager into the special revenue account known as the “Sports Betting Special Revenue Fund.”
The bill also makes it illegal to take bets on college sporting events and amateur events, including the Olympics.
Dismissing federal law
The bill gets interesting in that it seems to set up a challenge to federal law, a la New Jersey. From the bill.
Whereas our State Attorney General is challenging the usurpation of the federal government of state authority to regulate sports pool betting and has articulated in the briefs of the State of West Virginia in Cristie v. NCAA, 16-476, U.S. Supreme Court, that the U.S. Congress has no power to prevent state governments from authorizing sports betting as a form of gaming and therefore, the Legislature finds that it is reasonable and appropriate, for the State of West Virginia to proceed with legalizing sports pool betting pursuant to this article.
That passage alludes to the amicus brief by WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the New Jersey sports betting case. That brief arguing that New Jersey should be allowed to legalize sports betting was joined by four other state AGs.
It’s not clear, yet, if West Virginia has an appetite for a protracted legal battle like New Jersey has experienced.
The backdrop of WV gambling
West Virginia is already a gambling state. It has four casinos at racetracks — or racinos — already:
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
- Mardi Gras Casino and Resort Cross Lanes
- Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort
- Wheeling Island Hotel
Regional casino competition continues to increase in the Mid-Atlantic region. Casinos are taking a look at any edge they can gain, of which being an early adopter of legal sports betting would be a big one.
Other states and sports betting
The number of states pondering what to do with sports betting continues to climb. Here’s the list for 2017:
- Maryland, which has a bill and conducted a hearing on sports betting on Wednesday.
- Existing and planned bills in New York.
- A pair of bills in Michigan.
- Interest in the issue in Mississippi.
- Over-arching casino bills in Hawaii and South Carolina that include provisions regarding sports betting.