West Virginia Senate Bill 415 continued its journey through state legislature as it was passed by an overwhelming 77-22 margin by the House of Delegates. The bill will allow for sports wagers to be placed at the state’s five casinos and allow mobile and online betting on Lottery Commission-approved devices throughout the state.
Late last month, the state’s senate passed the bill in a decisive 25-9 vote. The support was due in large part to the lucrative implications legalized sports betting could provide for the state as many senators thought the potential monetary gain was too good to pass up when compared to the potential negative effects.
While some thought the projected $5 million in sports betting revenue in the first year alone was not quite enough, the majority agreed that getting legislation in place as quickly as possible with a key Supreme Court decision looming would be the best course of action and put West Virginia in the optimal position to profit quickly.
Although the SCOTUS announced no decision Monday on the eagerly anticipated Christie vs NCAA case, a ruling is expected to be favorable for sports betting meaning that the federal ban on sports wagers, PASPA, could either be ruled to violate New Jersey’s state rights specifically or be completely struck down as unconstitutional.
Upon learning of the bill’s continued support, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred voiced his concerns with what he considers a “fundamentally flawed” document. His words were familiar and unchanging from past stances on the bill, but tinted with an obvious sense of hypocrisy given the league's support of a one percent 'integrity fee'.
While chastising the gaming industry for only being concerned with making money, he restated the league’s interest in the fee because “after all, (it’s) our product that people are seeking to bet on”:
“Unfortunately in West Virginia, there's only one interested group that has dominated the substance of this bill, and that's the gaming industry -the people seeking to make money from sports betting. It contains literally no protections toward the integrity of the sport. There's no recognition of that risk. It does not protect young people in West Virginia by limiting their access to sports betting. It does not protect people with gambling problems.”
Whether or not Manfred has actually read the bill should be called into question as it clearly outlines a minimum participation age of 20 years old for all potential betters. Also, it’s interesting to note that as the commissioner bemoans the gambling industry for putting money first, Manfred has no problem asking for one percent of the take on all potential bets should sports gambling be legalized as proposed in MLB and the NBA’s 'Model Sports Wagering Act'.
While Manfred hurls outlandish claims such as “all (the bill) does is maximize the opportunity for the gaming industry to make money,” he completely leaves out the serious potential financial benefits the state of West Virginia, home to one of the worst economies in the US, would garner from legal betting
Legal sportsbooks would be required to purchase $100,000 sports betting operator licenses and pay 10 percent of their gross betting revenue in taxes. With that in mind, it’s ironic that sports leagues, which rarely pass up the opportunity to take money from state governments when expanding and building new billion-dollar stadiums, would have an issue with states actually profiting off of their product.