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A sports betting bill that has the backing of the West Virginia Lottery Commission surfaced in the Senate on Monday, the latest indication that the state may be the next to enact a law permitting single-game wagering.
The new bill would seek to legalize and regulate sports betting via the state lottery. That’s provided, of course, that the federal ban on such wagering is struck down or lifted. That could happen in the coming months, if the US Supreme Court rules that the federal ban — PASPA — is unconstitutional.
Part of the legislation acknowledges the current climate in the US:
The Legislature finds that illegal sports wagering channels operating throughout the United States pose a critical threat to the safety and welfare of the citizens of West Virginia, and creating civil and criminal penalties to prosecute illegal operators while transferring this black market demand into a secure and highly regulated environment will protect the public and positively benefit state revenues and the state’s economy.
There were already two other bills active in the statehouse, but the new bill will be the vehicle for legalization moving forward.
Here’s what is in the bill (S 415):
Of note: the earlier bills in the state sought to tax sports wagering at a rate of two percent of handle, which would be a much higher effective tax.
There is no appearance of the “integrity fee” that was included in an Indiana sports betting bill lobbied for by the NBA and Major League Baseball. That fee as suggested by the NBA would pay one percent of handle to all sports leagues on which wagering would occur.
The bill would make sports betting the domain of the state’s five existing gaming facilities:
The bill does not get into the specifics of online/mobile wagering. But as stated above, the lottery can approve mobile betting platforms in the state.
According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the bill is the brainchild of the state lottery:
… the state Lottery Commission will be introducing legislation this session to permit sports betting at state casinos, Lottery counsel Danielle Boyd told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.
Boyd said the expectation is the high court will issue an opinion in late spring or early summer overturning the ban, and the commission hopes to have a state sports betting law on the books when that happens.
The lottery has been aggressive in preparing for legal sports betting, contracting for an analysis of the market last year. The lottery’s involvement in the bill should help pave the way for its eventual passage in the legislature.
West Virginia is looking to join New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, all states that have already legalized sports wagering pending a change in federal law. Nevada sports betting, of course, is already legal without a change in federal law.