Missing a Good Bet for Revenue

For people scrambling to find money to run state government, while increasing pay and benefits for public school employees, West Virginia legislators are strangely uninterested in a source of millions of dollars a year.

On Friday, the House of Delegates approved a bill to allow wagering on sporting events. For the measure to be enacted, state senators will have to approve the House version.

Even if signed into law, the plan could not be implemented unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules later this year to lift a ban on sports betting in most states.

As approved by the House, the bill has a variety of flaws. Sports leagues worry it does not contain enough safeguards against corruption among athletes.

But the measure is a foul ball in another respect — West Virginians’ “take” from sports wagering.

As the bill stands, the state would get only 10 percent of the proceeds from sports betting. Some other states are considering twice that amount — or even higher.

In dollars, the difference between a 10 percent “take” and 20 percent could amount to as much as $30 million a year.

Why should the casinos — which still would keep 80 percent — get that $30 million? That, by the way, is enough money to give every state employee a 1 percent pay raise.

State senators have one more chance to improve West Virginia’s share to 20 percent. They should do just that.