West Virginia Sports Betting Bill Faces Final Vote in House of Delegates Today

WHEELING — A bill regarding the legalization of sports betting in West Virginia comes up for final passage today in the West Virginia Legislature.

The House of Delegates is set to have its third and final reading on Senate Bill 415, and members then would vote on whether to make it law.

If passed, the legislation would permit sports betting at West Virginia’s four racetracks — and The Greenbrier resort owned by Gov. Jim Justice. The law would only go into effect, however, if Congress acts to authorize sports wagering on the national level, or if the U.S. Supreme Court renders an opinion permitting states to start sports betting games.

A major component of the bill is that it directs the first $15 million in tax revenue each year from proposed sports betting games to the State Lottery Fund. After this, the remainder would go into the Public Employees Insurance Agency Financial Stability fund “to stabilize and preserve the future solvency of PEIA.”

SB 415 has moved through the House with little change, and Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, expects it should pass with “strong bipartisan support.” He said sports betting also should help bring in much needed revenue for the state and PEIA.

“It raises new revenue without raising taxes on West Virginians,” Fluharty said. “Two-thirds of the revenue is expected to be from people visiting our state, which is great for our local economy and our businesses. With passage, West Virginia finally says, ‘We are going to lead on something instead of simply following others.’ It’s about time we decide to compete against our neighboring states.”

The Eilers and Krejcik gaming research firm predicts sports betting in West Virginia would result in $13.4 million in revenue the first year, $21.7 million the second, $29.7 million in year three, $29 million the fourth year, and $28.7 million in five years.

The same report says 699 full-time jobs could come to local tracks in the next five years as a result of sports betting, with another 233 resulting elsewhere.

The firm estimates a total of 931 additional full-time jobs in the state within a five-year period, and an economic impact of $229 million by year five coming from sports betting.

Both the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, meanwhile, are knocking West Virginia’s attempt to legalize sports betting. They assert the bill lacks proper safeguards, doesn’t protect consumers, and wouldn’t prohibit players from betting on their own sports.

The sports organizations have been seeking a 1 percent “integrity tax” to help them investigate and monitor sports games and gaming boards as they happen on the field and on the courts.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has set up a conference call with West Virginia media for Friday afternoon regarding sports betting in the state.

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