It’s full speed ahead for legal West Virginia sports betting as Senate Bill 415 was approved on Tuesday by a 25-9 margin, sending the West Virginia Lottery Sports Wagering Act to the House of Delegates where sister bill HB 4396 also has support.
Plans for legal WV sports betting have been in the works for over a year since the West Virginia State Lottery commissioned a study about the market and potential economic impact in the Mountaineer state. The state has five casinos and roughly 10 million people living within 90 miles of those properties, including residents in neighboring Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
“It should go straight to House Finance [Committee], so we could be back on the agenda as early as Thursday or Friday, then to the floor to be read three times,” West Virginia State Lottery counsel Danielle Boyd told Sports Handle regarding the next steps. Boyd said the bill should go up for a vote by the middle of next week.
West Virginia Sports Betting Bill SB 415 Passes Senate; Measure Will Head to the House of Delegates for a Vote Soon
The Republican-controlled West Virginia House of Delegates is comprised of of 100 members, with 64 Republicans currently seated and 36 Democrats. The House sports betting bill, which mirrors SB 415, has seven Republican co-sponsors and public support from a number of Democrats.
Barring a big hiccup, the legal WV sports betting bill should pass.
“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).
The bill would tax gross gaming revenue at five licensed sportsbooks at a 10% rate and charge operators $100,000 for a five-year license. The law would permit operators to offer sports wagering through apps and online, which is the wave of the future and also would make sports betting more accessible to more remote parts of rural West Virginia.
“People are already gambling” House Delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio) 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?”
Of course all of this, as it does in the dozen-plus other states teeing up legal sports betting bills, depends on the outcome of Murphy v. NCAA, aka the Supreme Court Sports Betting Case (previously ‘Christie’ not ‘Murphy,’ representing a change in governorship).
A decision in that case on the fate of the federal law banning sports wagering outside Nevada — the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) — could come as soon as March 5. How long would it take West Virginia operators to prepare for a wager.
“We understand from our casinos that they believe that there will be about a 90-day period them to implement, and that of course is best case scenario” said Boyd. “n the bill that’s currently pending in the legislature, it allows us emergency rulemaking authority, and we will have certain regulations done according to minimum internal control standards.”
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