Sports Betting

Gov. Justice may ask for changes to measure

Enact it and forget it is standard practice in the West Virginia Legislature, but it often is not good policy. Gov. Jim Justice seems to recognize that regarding a proposal to legalize sports betting.

Justice told us last week he will allow the measure to become law. But, he added, he may ask lawmakers later to revise the measure.

That could come after the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling, expected later this year, on a federal ban on sports wagering in most states. It has been predicted widely that the justices will overturn the prohibition, opening the door to a massive expansion of legalized betting on athletic events.

Justice’s focus is cooperation with professional sports leagues. Two of them, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, lobbied for the state to cooperate with them on sports betting. Both termed the bill approved by the Legislature “flawed.”

“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 in a statement released Friday. “I believe there could be real value to this partnership,” he added.

In addition to that aspect of the bill, Justice should ask lawmakers to look at some of its other provisions — specifically, how much state government would get from sports betting.

Some adjoining states with sports betting proposals set their percentage of proceeds at 20. Pennsylvania, with a law on the books, sets the “take” at 36 percent.

West Virginia’s bill calls for the state to receive a paltry 10 percent.

That is insufficient. Lawmakers should reconsider and increase state government’s portion.

Another aspect of the bill that should be looked at again is the limit on sports betting operators. The measure allows sports betting only at the state’s four racetrack/casinos and at The Greenbrier resort, which Justice owns. Allowing more sports betting operators could be beneficial.

Justice is right that this is a bill in need of substantial improvement — in more than one way. As soon as the Supreme Court issues its ruling, he should call legislators back to Charleston to make the needed changes.


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