The State of West Virginia legislature made its support for potential legal sports gambling abundantly clear Tuesday, swiftly passing SB 415. The senate passed the bill in a 25-9 vote and it will now be sent to the House of Delegates for further deliberation.
The law would go into effect if and when the Supreme Court rules to strike down PASPA, the federal ban on sports betting established in 1992, to resolve the Christie vs. the NCAA case. The Supreme Court could most likely release its verdict by March 5, April 2 or April 30 with the latest possible date being June 25.
The bill would allow for sports wagers to be placed at the state’s five casinos, establish a minimum age of 20 for potential players and enable betting on Lottery Commission-approved mobile and online devices throughout the state. Additionally, potential sportsbook facilities would be required to purchase $100,000 sports betting operator licenses and pay 10% of their gross betting revenue in taxes.
Senators expect the bill to allow for an estimated $5 million total in sports betting revenue, though Democrat Michael Romano, due to his belief that the state needed more than the proposed amount. Other detractors voted out of concern for further exposing citizens to the addictive qualities of gambling.
However, Democrat Mike Woelfel, and others who voted for the bill, acknowledged that the potential monetary income for the state was too good to pass up, noting the potential serious potential of online and mobile betting during the huge events like the Super Bowl. They also wished to get a step ahead of the competition to be amongst the first of the states to be granted to ability to offer sports gambling should PAPSA be declared unconstitutional.
Spirits were raised that such a decision could end on the positive side for New Jersey and other proponents of sports betting in early December. A Supreme Court hearing appeared to show that most of the justices agreed that PASPA violated New Jersey’s rights as a state and was therefore unconstitutional. New Jersey has since engaged in efforts of their own to prepare for a favorable verdict, asking potential sports betting suitors to apply for gambling licenses and even constructing new sportsbooks.
A significant aspect of this sports betting bill as opposed to others proposed in the U.S. recently, is that it does not warrant for or include the support of the NBA, the NHL, MLB, the NFL, the NCAA or other major sports leagues. A growing movement by said leagues (namely MLB and the NBA) to profit from the outcome of the SCOTUS case has ramped up this year. A bill in Missouri backed by MLB and NBA commissioner Adam Silver support the idea of a one percent 'integrity fee' on all potential sports bets made if the practice is legalized.
The fact that SB 415 did not need the approval of pro and amateur sports entities to make it through West Virginia’s senate could mean a lot in terms of precedence and set an example for other states looking to negotiate more beneficial agreements with sports leagues. While those leagues rightly maintain rights of intellectual property, the undermining of their position by swift legislative action without their explicit consent could put states in a better starting place in these impending negotiations.