CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Betting on sports could become legal at West Virginia’s four racetrack casinos along with The Greenbrier Resort and available via mobile apps for those locations under legislation on track to be introduced in both the state Senate and state House of Delegates before the end of the week.
“We believe at least $250 million in (sports) wagers were placed in West Virginia just last year on the black market,” said Danielle Boyd, managing general counsel for the West Virginia Lottery.
“We want to bring that above the line. We want to be able to transfer that black market into a regulated stream that also will bring in some revenue to the state.”
The bill was being formally drafted on Thursday morning and Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns (R-Ohio, 01) was among those signed on as sponsors, according to Boyd.
In part, a version MetroNews reviewed included the following under its legislative findings:
“The Legislature finds that in order to protect the residents of the state who wager on sports or other events and to capture revenues and create jobs generated from sports wagering, it is in the best interest of this state to authorize its citizens to regulate this activity by authorizing and establishing a secure, responsible, fair, and legal system of sports wagering immediately when the federal ban is lifted.”
The federal ban on sports betting in all states except for Delaware, Montana, Oregon and Nevada under the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act could be lifted with a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court later this year.
In December, the Court heard arguments on challenges to New Jersey’s laws allowing for sports betting.
The Mountain State has filed a brief in support of striking down the ban.
If that happens, Boyd said the state must be ready.
“The West Virginia Lottery has always been pioneers in the gaming industry. We’ve been out in front,” she said during an appearance on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) January 25, 2018
“This is a very interesting and unique opportunity for us to capitalize on being one of the first to market in the region on something that, we believe, captures a piece of the pie we haven’t captured in the casino industry before,” she said.
Pennsylvania has already taken early legislative steps but, Boyd said, West Virginia could still beat Ohio, Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky to the sports betting market.
In the draft of the bill, Boyd said casino sites would be permitted to develop mobile apps to allow for off-site bet placements with established limits for age and location. Bets from outside of West Virginia won’t be allowed, for example.
Chris Grove, managing director of Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, told CBS News that Americans are already betting an estimated $60 billion annually using offshore sites and bookies, generating about $3 billion in revenue from the customers.
A properly regulated market, he said, could bring in significantly higher revenues for operators, sports leagues, media and state governments.
Conservatively, the West Virginia Lottery has estimated state revenues from legalized sports betting in its initial year in the Mountain State could be between $5 million and $9 million and climb from there in subsequent years.
“We’re going to miss the boat if our neighbors act first,” Boyd said.