WHEELING, W.Va. — A member of the West Virginia House of Delegates believes sports betting could be a boost to West Virginia’s future.

Delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio) intends to introduce a bill to clear the way for legalized sports betting in West Virginia which would be regulated by the West Virginia Lottery. However, the first order of business will be action by the Supreme Court of the United States to clear the way for states to act on the idea.

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Del. Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio, 03)

“It’s a shame in 1992 the federal government in used their broad overreach to tell states what to do. I think finally we’re having the opportunity to take a stand against the federal government,” Fluharty said in a discussion about the issue on MetroNews “Talkline.” “When the Supreme Court comes back, hopefully they do so with a broad ruling that shoots down the law because if we wait on the federal government to do something, we’re going to be waiting for a long time.”

Fluharty plans to again introduce legislation to allow for sports betting in the state. He wants West Virginia  to be among the first to get on board.

“I want to get out ahead of this thing. I’m tired of West Virginia continuing to be the last to act,” he explained. “This is an opportunity for us to be on the forefront of an issue. Since I have introduced this legislation, I think now 14 other states have done so.”

The idea, according to Fluharty, would be to allow betting within West Virginia’s borders via a phone app after setting up an account through one of the West Virginia casinos. Using Geo-fence technology it is possible to use a phone app to place bets only within the boundaries of West Virginia. Fluharty said it would be up to the Lottery and West Virginia casinos to decide how to handle details of the sports book and how to set odds and lines as well as place bets. The bottom line, according to Fluharty, is the state’s bottom line.

“We have a huge black market, not just in West Virginia but throughout the United States, a multi-billion dollar black market,” Fluharty said. “If I wanted to place a bet right now, I’d have no problem going on line and doing so, the problem is West Virginia doesn’t see a dime of it.”

Fluharty’s plan admittedly has hurdles. First will be a favorable ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. The next hurdle will be a Republican led legislature which traditionally opposes gambling expansion. He doesn’t see why anyone should oppose the measure.

“How many times do we have an opportunity to raise new revenue without raising anybody’s taxes,” said Fluharty. “If you talk to the average person and said we have the ability to raise new revenue through sports betting, they’d say it’s a no brainier and let’s move forward with it.”

The regular legislative session begins Jan. 10.

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