Sports betting could roll by football season

U.S. Supreme Court overturns federal ban

PARKERSBURG — West Virginia’s gaming industry is hoping to have sports betting ready to roll by the time football season starts, a trade spokesman said on Monday.

The goal is for the Lottery Commission and the casinos and race tracks to have the regulatory requirements finalized so they will be ready by around Sept. 1 to offer betting on sports games, said John Cavacini of the West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act prohibiting state-sanctioned gambling on sporting events, except in Nevada. The decision paves the way for sports betting in West Virginia where the Legislature this past session approved Senate Bill 415 permitting wagering on professional or collegiate sports as authorized by the West Virginia Lottery Commission.

Casinos and race tracks are developing accommodations for sports betting, either as renovations or additions to existing facilities, Cavacini said. The plans for the renovations and capital improvements to be reviewed by the Lottery Commission in the next four months, he said.

“We’ve been taking steps on that,” said Cavacini, who represents the race tracks and casinos in West Virginia with the exception of the Greenbrier Resort.

The resort is owned by Gov. Jim Justice, who last week said in a press release a tentative agreement was reached among the Lottery Commission, licensed casino operators and a sports consortium over an integrity fee, which will not be paid for by the state.

Last week, Cavacini said he was surprised by the governor’s announcement. Cavacini Monday said a fee would be a private contractural agreement between the leagues and the casinos and not with the state, according to the mood of the Legislature.

The Legislature addressed the integrity fee “and didn’t have any appetite to pass it,” Cavacini said. Both houses of the Legislature this session rejected changes to SB 415 to include the integrity fee.

House Speaker Tim Armstead in Parkersburg Monday said he hasn’t spoken to any legislators who favor the fee. If the gaming interests want to enter into private contracts with sports leagues, they can, he said.

“I believe there’s almost no interest in the Legislature to impose such a fee,” said Armstead, who voted against 415.

Only two local legislators voted in favor of SB 415, Delegate Vernon Criss and Sen. Donna Boley. Delegates John Kelly and Bill Anderson and Sen. Mike Azinger voted aginst.

Sports betting doesn’t create economic expansion, Azinger said. Investing in business or the natural gas industry does, he said.

“Prosperity doesn’t come from the land of gambling,” Azinger said.

(Evan Bevins contributed to this report.)

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