After hearings in the West Virginia House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Wednesday, West Virginia’s legal sports betting bill passed votes in both chambers, advancing the measure to the House Finance Committee.
“We could really be the first mid-Atlantic state to have sports betting, rather than being a state that follows suit,” said House Delegate Riley Moore (R-Jefferson) during discussion about House Bill 4396, per the Charleston Mail.
Dubbed the West Virginia Lottery Sports Wagering Act, the bill passed the House by a 18-6 margin and the Senate approved its sister bill SB 415 by a “voice vote.”
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Among those testifying before the House on the West Virginia Lottery Sports Wagering Act (The Act) was Danielle Boyd, general counsel for the state’s Lottery Commission. According to WVNews.com, Boyd remarked that few states have been proactive in passing this kind of sports betting legislation, which would allow West Virginia to get first to market (or close to it).
Numerous other states in the northeast and recently the midwest have considered or advanced sports bills that would legalize sports betting, but have shown less focus than West Virginia lawmakers or have gotten distracted by lobbyists for the NBA and MLB, which have been pushing a 1% “integrity fee” cut for the leagues on all wagers. But 1% is deceiving: It would amount to roughly a 20% cut off average sportsbook revenue. West Virginia’s bill contains no such 1% fee benefiting the leagues.
The Act would apply a 10% tax rate for the state on gross gaming revenue, which is a few points higher than the 6.75% that Nevada imposes. The 10% is on par or far lower than proposals by other states looking to legalize sports betting; Pennsylvania’s bill, in its current form, would levy 35% on gross gaming revenue.
“[The tax rate] is substantially lower,” Boyd said. “You know, anything that would go higher would not make it profitable for the properties essentially.”
WV is on the move! Sports betting passed House Judiciary 18-6 and Senate Judiciary by voice vote in the same afternoon! We’re not there yet, but we’re making progress in the Mountain State! #wv #sportsbettinghttps://t.co/RCckJe0Pjo
— Danielle Boyd (@danyeller714) February 8, 2018
Permits Five Casinos to Open Sportsbooks on Premises and Online
The bill would allow all five of the state’s casinos to open sportsbooks on land and online through Lottery Commission-approved mobile devices.
Of course, in all states looking to operate sportsbooks in their casinos and online, implementation is contingent upon the ruling in the Supreme Court of the United States in Christie v NCAA (now Murphy v. NCAA, reflecting New Jersey’s newly elected governor Phil Murphy).
That case will determine the fate of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which in 1992 effectively banned sports wagering in every state but Nevada. West Virginia’s sports betting bill would authorize gambling on both professional and amateur sports.
“People are already gambling” House Delegate Shawn Fluharty told SportsHandle in December. “Everybody and their mother is basically gambling at this point on sports. But yet we’re not making a single penny off of it at the state level or at the federal level. Why would we not take advantage of this opportunity to regulate something that’s already taking place?”
Estimates vary on the size of the existing illegal sports betting market and potential state revenues that may legalize sports betting. House Delegate Moore referenced a possible $178 million and perhaps 500 new jobs in the first five years of an environment in which sports betting is legal in the Mountain State.
The Act still requires a successful vote on the floor, and then signing by governor Jim Justice, if and when it advances through the House Finance Committee. With a decision forthcoming in the spring on New Jersey’s Supreme Court case, it appears that the legislature is moving full speed ahead in preparation.
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