West Virginia has become the latest US state to legalise gambling within its borders, following the passage of the ‘West Virginia Sports Lottery Wagering Act’.
The hotly contested bill, previously known as Senate Bill 415, was signed into law by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice late on Friday evening.
It places regulatory responsibility on the shoulders of the West Virginia Lottery Commission, allowing the states five gaming facilities to offer sports betting on pro and collegiate sports, subject to a 10% taxation rate on their gross gaming revenue.
The state becomes the sixth state to legalise sports betting, following in the footsteps of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Mississippi and Pennsylvania. Many more are considering legalisation, with bills winging their way through legislatures all over the US.
Issuing a press release following the signing, Governor Justice said: "After the US Supreme Court issues its decision on sports wagering, to address any provisions of the legislation that might be in conflict, I will ask the Legislature to look at the advantages of partnering with the major sports league.
"I believe there could be real value to this partnership. I expect the Supreme Court to rule on this issue in the next few months. This approach will allow us to develop a relationship with all the major sports leagues so that it is beneficial to everyone.”
Governor Justice was of course referring to the Supreme Court review into the constitutional validity of the Professional and Amateur Sports Participation Act (PASPA), a review which is currently taking place and could have wide ranging consequences for states across the US.
At state level, the battle has been between legislators wishing to ensure the development of a regulated sports betting market and those sports associations (including the NBA and MLB) wishing to ensure that they receive a cut of what has the potential to be a $15bn sports betting market.
Both the NBA and MLB had previously lobbied for the inclusion of a 1% ‘integrity fee’ in any legislation; however these demands fell on deaf ears when the West Virginia Finance Committee unanimously voted to reject any such inclusion. However, with Governor Justice’s comments, it seems that the sporting associations may get another bite of the cherry.
Responding to the decision, both associations issued press statements with the NBA saying: “We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to call a special session to add necessary and critical safeguards to the law. We will work with all relevant parties on amendments that will protect consumers and the integrity of sports.”
Sentiments which were echoed by their opposite numbers at the MLB who added: “Major League Baseball appreciates the willingness of Governor Justice to correct the significant flaws in the sports betting statute by calling a special session to amend the law.
“We believe that with the Governor’s leadership, the amended statute will better protect the citizens of West Virginia and the integrity of sports, and also increase revenue for the state in the long run.”