West Virginia sports betting bill could affect legislation in Kansas, Missouri

West Virginia sports betting bill could affect legislation in Kansas, Missouri

A new twist to the legislation designed to regulate sports betting in West Virginia could have a ripple effect that would reach to Kansas and Missouri.

On Thursday, May 10th, multiple outlets reported that a tentative deal to legalize sports betting had been reached in West Virginia’s state government between a cavalcade of stakeholders, and one particular aspect of the deal generated many headlines.

That part of the deal was a cut of the revenue for the state’s two prominent public university athletic departments, Marshall and West Virginia. According to ESPN’s David Purdum, representatives from both athletic departments had participated in negotiations and argued that they deserved “reimbursement” for additional costs their offices would take on as a result of legalized sports betting.

It’s apparently still early, and there are many naysayers regarding the existence or completion of a deal. A representative of the casino industry in West Virginia said the governor’s office “jumped the gun” by announcing a deal. At least one member of the W. Va. House of Representatives doubts the ability of the current bill to be enacted.

This situation is further in the realm of mere possibility because of another element. In the current status quo, even if states like Kansas, Mo. and W. Va. authorize sports betting within their borders, federal law would essentially nullify those provisions. The 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) makes sports betting illegal in 46 states, which include all three of the afore-mentioned states. The US Supreme Court is currently deliberating over a challenge to the law, and a bill to repeal PASPA exists in the US House of Representatives.

With those elements understood, setting out a hypothetical situation demonstrates what kind of impact this kind of legislation could have in Kansas and Missouri. If the Supreme Court strikes down PASPA or Congress repeals it then West Virginia does enact a sports betting law which gives a cut of the revenue to Marshall and West Virginia, the effects of that could quickly be felt in places like Columbia and Lawrence.

Kansas’ and Mizzou’s athletic departments had no immediate comment on the news on Thursday, and responses for comment from Kansas State, UMKC and Wichita State have not yet been responded to. It’s safe to speculate that if Marshall and West Virginia’s coffers started being enriched by sports betting, that’s a revenue stream that all those schools would be interested in for themselves as well.

In that scenario, it’s not crazy to expect that representatives from the schools mentioned above would be present for similar negotiations in Jefferson City and Topeka, seeking a similar result. They would likely make the same arguments that Marshall and West Virginia have made. Those are arguments that legislators in both states are already familiar with from different sources.

Both Kansas and Missouri are already in the process of deciding upon similar legislation, with influence in both states from MLB and the NBA. MLB and the NBA have both tried to convince legislators in both states that they deserve a cut of sports betting revenue for three reasons. The first is that as the operators of the games being wagered upon, they deserve a cut of the profits being made off those bets.

Secondly, the leagues argue that they own the information being used in determining the bets (although final scores of games as protected intellectual property is a reach and has largely been refused by legislators in other states). The last is very similar to Marshall and West Virginia’s argument, that ensuring integrity among their personnel will have additional costs and they should be reimbursed for those expenses.

SB 455 in the Kansas legislature, which failed to get through committee and reach the full floor, acquiesced to demands by MLB and the NBA fully. On the Missouri side of the border, SB 1013 looks very similar on those fronts. It seems MLB and the NBA have been effective at getting the desired language into initial versions of these bills. That bodes well for the states’ public universities’ athletic departments if they decide to get involved.

It’s uncertain whether another bill similar to SB 455 will rise in the Kansas legislature and what the ultimate fate of SB 1013 in the Missouri assembly will be, but what seems much more certain is that if everything lines up to give Marshall and West Virginia sports betting revenue, athletic departments in Kansas and Mo. will press their legislatures for the same thing.