Get Integrity Plan in Place

When West Virginia legislators decided earlier this year to set the groundwork for legalized sports betting, they moved like racehorses. In their haste, they stumbled, enacting a flawed bill.

Monday’s news that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a federal ban on sports betting makes correcting the faults imperative.

One defect in the Mountain State law is the absurdly low cut of proceeds from sports betting that will go to the state — a paltry 10 percent. Pennsylvania, one of the few other states with sports betting statutes in place, sets its rate at 36 percent.

Another weakness is that sports betting is restricted to the state’s five gambling casinos (the four racetracks plus The Greenbrier). Why not open it up to others?

From a gambler’s standpoint, however, the worst failing in West Virginia’s law probably is the lack of reliable, timely verification. How will the sports books judge whether bettors win?

Not by links with professional sports leagues and the NCAA, as matters stand.

Professional sports leagues have sought a connection with betting. In exchange for a minimal integrity fee, they would provide honest, speedy information on what is happening in sporting events.

Many bets have nothing to do with game scores. They are “proposition bets” on what happens during events. For example, wagers might be placed on how many yards a football team gains during the first quarter.

Professional leagues and the NCAA are the most trustworthy means of reporting such information. People placing bets know that.

But West Virginia’s law contains no requirement for such verification.

Last week, recognizing the importance of cooperation between sports organizations and the casinos, Gov. Jim Justice attempted but failed to broker an integrity fee agreement.

Justice, who owns The Greenbrier, has tried to stay out of the matter. He let the Legislature’s bill become law without his signature. Clearly, however, the governor understands the need for an integrity arrangement. It needs to be hammered out quickly — and it needs to be done by the Legislature.

Lawmakers left important business unfinished when they adjourned their regular session earlier this year. Given the Supreme Court ruling, dealing with flaws in the sports betting law should be viewed as a priority — worthy of consideration in the special legislative session the governor plans to call.


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