WV's four racinos, Greenbrier would be allowed to conduct sports gambling
Legal Sports Report

New West Virginia Sports Betting Bill Surfaces With Support Of State Lottery; Allows For Mobile Wagering

WV sports betting 2018

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 WV sports betting bill

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.

The nuts and bolts of the sports betting bill

Here’s what is in the bill (S 415):

  • Puts regulation of sports wagering under the purview of the state lottery.
  • Allows wagering on both pro and collegiate sporting events.
  • Sets a minimum age of 21 for wagering.
  • Allows for the state’s five gaming facilities to offer sports betting.
  • Would authorize online and/or mobile wagering if the lottery commission approves it.
  • Sets up a structure for licensure of sports betting operators, and creates an application fee of $250,000. An approved license is good for five years and can be renewed for $100,000.
  • Creates a tax on operators on their gross gaming revenue of ten percent.
  • Codifies the basics of integrity monitoring for sports wagering vs. real-world events.

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.

Where would sports betting take place?

The bill would make sports betting the domain of the state’s five existing gaming facilities:

  • The Casino Club at The Greenbrier
  • Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
  • Mardi Gras Casino and Resort
  • Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort 
  • Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack

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.

The lottery is behind this effort

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.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.