WV already passed a law earlier this year, but NBA, MLB want to change it
Legal Sports Report

WV Governor Still Pushing To Change Sports Betting Law; Meeting With Leagues Slated

WV sports betting law change

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice appears to be determined to call a special session of the legislature in order to address the state’s recently passed sports betting law, in addition to other topics.

WV sports betting, the latest

Justice held a press conference on Friday. Near the end, he was asked about whether he intends to call a special on sports gambling and other issues.

The state already has a law –passed in March — on the books that would take effect if the federal ban is struck down in the US Supreme Court sports betting case.

But the NBA and Major League Baseball are unhappy with the WV sports betting law, as it gives them none of what they have been lobbying for across the country. That includes no “integrity fee” payable to the leagues.

Interestingly, Justice neither signed nor vetoed the sports betting bill, allowing it to become law without his signature. If he had wanted to fix the sports betting bill, it seems strange that he didn’t even see hit to veto it.

Justice talks sports betting

Here’s the part of the presser on sports betting, when asked about whether the plan is to have a special session:

Justice: I think so, in fact, I know so, we’re trying to get some more information back on the sports betting, is that correct? Or we’re waiting on that, we’re going to have a meeting with the leagues and everything…

Aide: Yeah, there’s a meeting set up in about a week with all the stakeholders on that.

Justice And I think even the PGA is coming in, and maybe even the NCAA also is coming in. I think we’re just gathering a little bit more information, I really believe that we need to bring them under the umbrella for the amount of the fee that they wanted, or we negotiated.

They wanted a percent, we negotiated to a quarter of a percent and if we can get them to sign on for that and everything and bring them under the umbrella, I think that’s very very minimal cost to the casinos, and I think it would be a good thing.

You can watch the whole thing here.

Let’s break down what Justice said…

A lot of what he said seemed like stream-of-consciousness, so let’s look closer:

  • A special session to take another look at the law appears to be in the cards. That session would likely take place May 20-22. And when that happens, Justice wants the legislature to take up sports betting.
  • The leagues are coming back to West Virginia. A meeting between the leagues and the state’s casinos scheduled for April had been postponed, but appears to be on track for this week. Justice intimated that the PGA Tour — which sides with the NBA and MLB on sports betting — and the NCAA would be involved.
  • The “integrity fee” would be .25 percent of all wagers in the state. Leagues have been asking for a fee that is one percent of handle, or roughly 20 percent or revenue, in many states. A .25 percent tax on handle payable to the leagues may seem minimal, but giving that money to leagues does not seem to provide any tangible benefit to anyone (other than the leagues).w
  • “Negotiated?” It’s not clear what benefit Justice believes the state will realize from giving them a fee. And the idea that he negotiated the leagues down to a smaller percentage is bizarre, seeing as the state already has a law that gives them no fees whatsoever.

How likely is this to change WV sports betting?

The state already has a sports betting law, and revisiting it to give pro sports leagues — and not the state’s casinos or the state government — more money seems like a stretch.

The only groups with a real presence in the state are the PGA Tour — which holds an event at The Greenbrier — and the NCAA, with a pair of Division I schools in the state. (Justice owns The Greenbrier.) There are also minor league baseball teams in the state.

But the NBA and MLB have obviously lobbied their way to a position where the law could be put back into play. This week’s meetings might provide more insight.

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.