When the Supreme Court eventually releases its ruling on sports betting, West Virginia will be among the most prepared states to take advantage. The state has legislature in place to effectively regulate sportsbooks and the practice of sports wagering has been legalized at the state level as of a few weeks ago.
The state is so ready, in fact, that officials believe that bookmakers will be able to start taking bets a mere 90 days after the SCOTUS’s verdict on Christie v. NCAA. While there’s no official word on whether or not New Jersey will be successful in its challenging of PASPA, optimism hasn’t been hard to come by.
Sports betting proponents from Monmouth Park owner Dennis Drazin to MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren have taken preemptive action to prepare casinos, resorts and racetracks for what many expect to be a ruling in favor of New Jersey.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement made it a point last month to encourage all potential sportsbooks to apply for their sports betting licenses, and with similar legislation in place, West Virginia could be right behind the Garden State. Alan Larrick, the state’s lottery director, went as far as to say that in a “perfect world” West Virginia could offer legalized sports betting “by late summer”:
“Everyone’s getting themselves ready. We’re thinking there’s a 50 percent chance that next month we may know something. I don’t know more than anyone else, (but) the consensus is the court is going to rule 6-3 or 5-4 in favor of New Jersey.”
Larrick added that he believes sports betting would go a long way towards improving West Virginia’s overall gambling and tourist industries specifically the five casinos where it would be legalized. The state’s position to act quickly and be among the first to capitalize on the decision puts it in prime position to offer a unique product to visitors and civilians of the Mountain State.
“Sports betting is going to be beneficial to the casinos in West Virginia. We’re hoping getting those folks in the casinos will not only get people playing sports betting, but also the tables, and they’ll end up staying there (in hotels nearby). We’re really looking forward to working with our partner casinos,” Larrick said. “I think we’ve really gotten ahead of the curve. We’re out there first.”
Governor Jim Justice didn’t sign the betting bill that passed the state House and Senate with overwhelming support, but it became law without his signature according to a release from his office. He chose not to veto the bill even though MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has called for him to do so repeatedly.
Manfred and NBA commissioner Adam Silver have been loud proponents of a one percent integrity fee that would be levied on states’ revenue from sports betting and the West Virginia bill failed to include this provision. Justice, seeking not to have an adversarial relationship with MLB, did leave the possibility open for a special hearing in the future that could revisit the legislation as it’s structured:
“After the U.S. 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 leagues. 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.”
Larrick echoed Justice’s attitude towards the possibility of working out more agreeable terms with MLB and other sports leagues, but maintained the stance that the state’s benefit and potential for profit would remain a top priority:
“We’re open to any type of discussion. There may be something the leagues can provide in the way of marketing or something of that nature that would be to our benefit. Any type of tax, integrity fee, whatever you want to call it, we need to make sure it’s something that’s not prohibitive to our casinos and to the state of West Virginia. It needs to be a reasonable figure that allows us to go forward.”