West Virginia Senate gives thumbs up to Sports Betting

The West Virginia Senate passed the sports gambling bill on Tuesday aiming to generate revenues for helping the Public Employees Insurance Agency funds.

It would be possible only if the US Supreme gives its verdict in favour of sports wagering. 29 senators favoured the sports gambling bill while 5 opposed it, but the Senate Bill 415 passed with a majority. The bill makes the betting legal at the Mountain State’s casinos.

Placing bets on apps would also be legal. Under the bill, a portion of the amount from Sports betting would go to the State Lottery Commission.

An amendment offered by Sen. John Unger suggested that the bill would divert any revenue over $15 million from sports bets to a special fund to help support PEIA.

Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley optimistically asserted that they expect about $1.5 million inflow of revenues in the first year of implementation, about $13.4 million by the third year and about $28.7 by the fifth year. The market is expected to generate more substantial revenues as sports betting become established.

Two of the West senators also raised questions asking if Senate Bill 415 was legal under the West Virginia Constitution.  Senator Cory Palumbo, D-Kanawha, D-Harrison and Sen. Mike Romano called the bill unconstitutional. Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Charles Trump, R-Morgan, said that he believed the bill was entirely constitutional. He also noted that the drafters of the bill had presented the bill calling it a lottery, for which there is an exemption in the constitution. 

Trump also said that the lawmakers have remained very careful while using the language to allow for the passage of table games.

“I think we are bound to call things a lottery, even if they are not,” he asserted. Although Trump agreed with Palumbo as he also believed the sports betting was not a lottery, but he said that the bill was constitutional either way.

Senate Bill 415 now needs to pass the House of Delegates and be signed by Gov. Jim Justice, and then only it would become law. Assuming the U.S. Supreme Court finds such laws legal, sports betting would get implemented in 2019.

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