CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The gaming industry remains strongly opposed to the professional sports leagues getting any kind of integrity fee as part of West Virginia’s proposed sports betting program, an industry official said Tuesday.
Gov. Jim Justice allowed the sports betting bill to become law last Friday without his signature. Sports betting would only become legal in West Virginia if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey in a opinion expected to be released in the near future.
Justice said Monday on MetroNews “Talkline” it would be a good idea to work with the professional leagues and even consider an integrity fee in exchange for their expertise on the subject. During a Tuesday “Talkline” appearance, West Virginia Racing and Gaming Association President John Cavacini said he believes the program will be just fine without the help of the NBA, MLB and NFL. Cavacini said the leagues already know how to maintain integrity.
“The integrity of the games has been on the line for years and years and years and now all of the sudden the integrity is going to get better?”
The leagues were first pushing for a one percent fee of the amount wagered. Justice said he believes they would now accept .25 percent.
“If there’s a way to bring them to the table without them trying to take a great big lion’s share of the potential profits that could come to our state then I absolutely think we ought to do that. We ought to at least look at it,” Justice said Monday.
He’s talked about the possibility of a special session.Cavacini said the leagues have relied on Justice “to carry their water for them.” He said they didn’t work very hard during the legislative session to get the bill changed.
“They didn’t even talk about it,” Cavacini said. “We don’t even know what the integrity fee is going to be used for.”
The gaming industry has confidence in the West Virginia Lottery to operate the program, according to Cavacini.
“They’ve been in the gaming business since 1994. They’ve done an excellent job at anything that has been thrown at them, slots (video slot machines), table games, whatever it may have been,” Cavacini said.
The industry sees sports betting as an additional amenity that it can use to cross-promote the five casinos in West Virginia and maintain or grow employment levels, Cavacini said.
“There are 4,000 employees at the racetracks in West Virginia today and we’re trying to maintain a level of destination resorts,” he said.