May 14, 2018, was a watershed moment in the annals of both American economics and constitutional law. On this date, the Supreme Court PASPA decision legalized sports betting in West Virginia (and the rest of the country, conditionally dependent on states passing their own sports wagering laws). Voting 6-3 in favor of eliminating the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 as an unconstitutional federal violation of the Tenth Amendment (states’ rights), the SCOTUS has opened the door to sports betting across America.
And that’s great, because US black market and gray market sports betting is estimated to be a $300 billion to $500 billion industry. It is estimated that West Virginia residents alone turn a handle of $3 billion to $5 billion each year, most of which goes through local unlicensed bookies or overseas to offshore sportsbooks.
However, West Virginia itself has passed an omnibus bill legalizing sports betting in the state, granting regulatory enforcement to the authority of the West Virginia Lottery. The law, Article 22D (HB 415), stipulates that WV can distribute 5 sports betting operator licenses to established gambling entities in the state. While these licenses haven’t yet been granted to any single operator, it is considered a foregone conclusion that the four operating racetracks/racinos and The Greenbrier luxury hotel and casino will be the recipients of said sports betting licenses.
However, since two of WV’s racetracks are owned by the same conglomerate, that leaves one license unaccounted for. Many industry analysts are surmising that the final license will be granted to the WV Lottery itself, who could then presumably offer sports betting kiosks all throughout the state where other lottery tickets are typically sold.
Whether or not this newfound sports betting in West Virginia will bring the Mountain State the billions of dollars in annual revenue and economic impact expected remains to be seen. However, even if the state can siphon off a healthy percentage of the underground action already in place via these new legal means, legal sports betting in WV will be an absolute economic windfall.