West Virginia Lottery Commission Approves Permanent Sports Betting Rules, Rejects Integrity Fee Proposal

Integrity fee should be a matter discussed between casinos and sports leagues, without the state, says WV Racing Association President

The West Virginia Lottery Commission approved Wednesday the permanent rules for the operation of legal sports betting on the territory of the state. The regulator rejected all proposals made by professional sports leagues, most remarkably the one concerning the introduction of an integrity fee.

The so-called integrity fee has become the object of clashing opinions from professional sports leagues, lawmakers, regulators, and gambling industry stakeholders. Sports leagues have been asking for a share of what the nascent US sports betting market is generating, but lawmakers and regulators in all the states where wagering has become legal since the historical US Supreme Court ruling in May have dismissed demands for said fee when crafting the relevant betting legislations.

During a Wednesday meeting, the West Virginia Lottery Commission reviewed and voted on 18 comments and proposed changes to the state’s current sports betting regulations. As mentioned earlier, it voted down all seven proposals made by the sports leagues, including the one demanding the addition of an integrity fee.

State gambling regulators said after their vote that they did not want to intervene in negotiations between private business entities, that is the sports leagues themselves and casinos that operate sports wagering at their premises.

West Virginia approved a legal sports betting framework this past spring in anticipation of the SCOTUS ruling. First legal sports betting operations were launched at the end of August at Hollywood Casino in Charles Town. The Greenbrier launched its own sportsbook a couple of weeks later.

Reactions to the Rejected Integrity Fee Proposal

The newly appointed Director of the West Virginia Lottery Commission, John Myers, discussed integrity in a presentation ahead of the Wednesday vote on the proposed changes to the state’s betting rules. Mr. Myers said that integrity has always been part of the regulator’s policy and that it gives confidence to players to play.

Integrity is not a four-letter word […] If we don’t have integrity, players don’t play. If they don’t play, we lose revenue.

John Cavacini, President of the West Virginia Racing Association, the organization representing the state’s casinos, said following the Wednesday vote that commissioners had made the right call by deciding not to involve in negotiations between “privately held, for-profit” entities. Mr. Cavacini further pointed out that despite the rejected integrity fee proposals, West Virginia casinos are interested in discussing the matter with sports leagues on “an individual, contractual basis” as business organizations.

Commissioners approved on Wednesday two rule changes that would allow West Virginia bettors to check their mobile betting accounts while in another state. However, they would still only be able to wager money while they are physically located in West Virginia.

Mobile sports betting is expected to be rolled out in the state by the end of the year, probably in the coming weeks. It has also become clear that two more gambling venues, the Delaware North-owned Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack and Mardi Gras Casino, are expected to launch their sportsbooks in the next few weeks. The two properties originally planned to go live with sports wagering operations in late September, but notified state regulators that they needed a bit more time.

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