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Researcher: Sports betting could generate millions, primarily from out-of-state residents

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — If sports betting becomes legal in West Virginia, it could generate as much as $235 million in revenue for the state within three years, according to an industry analyst.

Senate Bill 415 and House Bill 4396 were introduced in the West Virginia Legislature last week. The measures would allow betting on sporting events authorized as West Virginia Lottery Sports Wagering activities, including collegiate sports. The West Virginia Lottery would be allowed to levy and collect a tax on 10 percent of receipts.

Sports betting would be allowed at the Greenbrier resort as well as four race tracks across the state.

The permitting of sports betting depends on an upcoming ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court; New Jersey is asking the court to allow its sports betting law to go into effect, which could overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that prohibits sports betting nationally.

“What New Jersey put forth was a very narrow way of regulating sports betting. It’s almost closer to the decriminalization of sports betting,” said Chris Grove, managing director of Eilers and Krejcik Gaming. “There is the opportunity for the court to rule narrowly in favor of New Jersey, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they create a path for sports betting that every state would want to go down.”

Eilers and Krejcik Gaming reported in January as many of 18 states will consider sports betting legislation this year.

Grove said on MetroNews “Talkline” last week the benefits of legalizing sports betting in West Virginia will come down to how neighboring states behave; Pennsylvania is also considering betting if the Supreme Court hands down a favorable ruling.

“West Virginia drives a very considerable amount of casino revenue now, and very little of that comes from within the state,” he said. “An overwhelming majority comes from outside of the state.”

Grove said if sports betting becomes legal, two-thirds of revenue would come from out-of-state residents, adding upwards of 10 million adults living within a 90-minute drive of West Virginia casinos.

“There’s obviously a demand among West Virginians to bet on sports, but for the same reason the state casinos have done so well historically, it’s the positions along borders of states where residents have demonstrated a clear interest in gambling,” he said.

Danielle Boyd, managing general counsel for the West Virginia Lottery, said the agency believes $250 million worth of bets were placed last year on the black market.

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