West Virginia Sports betting bill to become law

WHEELING — Gov. Jim Justice said Friday he will allow the sports betting bill adopted by the Legislature to become law, which means West Virginia’s four racetracks and The Greenbrier resort — which he owns — may eventually be allowed to offer this form of gambling.

Senate Bill 51 permits sports betting in the Mountain State once the games are approved at the national level, most likely via a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“After the U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision on sports wagering, to address any provisions of the legislation that might be in conflict, I will ask the Legislature to look at the advantages of partnering with the major sports leagues,” Justice said Friday in a released statement. “I believe there could be real value to this partnership. I expect the Supreme Court to rule on this issue in the next few months.

“This approach will allow us to develop a relationship with all the major sports leagues so that it is beneficial to everyone.”

Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association had together termed West Virginia’s sports betting bill “flawed.”

They had lobbied for a veto by Justice, who also owns The Greenbrier.

“We appreciate the governor’s commitment to call a special session to add necessary and critical safeguards to the law,” said Mike Bass, NBA executive vice president for communications. “We will work with all relevant parties on amendments that will protect consumers and the integrity of sports.”

Other critics of the bill say the amount of taxation the state has placed on the bill — 10 percent — is not enough.

Delegate Joe Canestraro, D-Marshall, said the sports betting bill was set at a 10 percent level because other states are proposing higher rates, and West Virginia wants to be competitive in the market.

Pennsylvania’s law sets sports betting taxes at 36 percent.

“Ohio hasn’t started on this legislation and Pennsylvania takes too big of a cut, so if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes sports betting, we will have an advantage over surrounding states,” he said. ”

Canestraro offered an amendment on the House floor to permit limited video lottery locations to offer sports betting games, but the amendment was defeated. Officials with the West Virginia Restaurant and Bar Association are hoping they will eventually get in on the action.

In addition to The Greenbrier, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort, the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in the Eastern Panhandle and at the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort, near Charleston, are the destinations that could offer sports betting.