CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The wait could continue into the summer for a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on sports betting with West Virginia already preparing to move forward on legalization within 90 days of any decision lifting a ban that’s currently in effect in most states.
“A hat tip to West Virginia for putting together, I think, a really good package,” said Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs at the American Gaming Association.
“(It’s) A really reasonable policy in place to legalize and regulate sports betting if and when that decision comes down from the Supreme Court.”
Under the new law, sports betting will only become legal in West Virginia if the U.S. Supreme Court rules broadly in favor of New Jersey in a opinion expected to be released this year potentially lifting betting bans at state levels across the United States.
An opinion date passed earlier this month without any order addressing the case.
New Jersey has been challenging the 1992 federal Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act with support from West Virginia and more than a dozen other states who are attempting to end pervasive illegal sports betting.
“It is happening right now. It’s happening in an illegal fashion. There are no consumer protections,” Slane said of such betting on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
In West Virginia, the law allows for betting on site at the Mountain State’s casinos and via a specialized app run through the casinos that can only be accessed within state boundaries.
The West Virginia Lottery is taking steps to prepare for the law change, though, Slane noted, there’s a chance the U.S. Supreme Court decision could be written narrowly and only address sports betting in New Jersey.
Gov. Jim Justice has indicated he may call a Special Session in May to address changes to West Virginia’s law including the possibly of integrity fees to be paid to the sports leagues involved.
Representatives of Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and other leagues had originally pushed for a one percent fee on the total amount of bets taken, but Justice has said he believed league officials would accept .25 percent.
Any such fee would require approval from the Legislature.
Slane said such integrity fees could be a blow to legalized gambling profits.
“If we have a shared goal of shutting down the illegal market, taking one percent — which is really 20 percent of revenues after you pay all the bettors and you pay taxes and you pay all the overhead — it’s just not going to be a sustainable business model,” Slane said.
Her organization, the American Gaming Association, bills itself as “the single most effective advocate for casino operators, suppliers and allies in the gaming industry.”