Last Thursday, Governor Jim Justice made a surprise announcement that sent the West Virginia gaming industry into a state of confusion. The governor issued a release that claimed that the state and its casino operators had come into a tentative agreement to incorporate an “integrity fee” into the state’s new sports betting law.
The alleged agreement which also happened to involve the “sports consortium” would see the state’s casino operators part with a percentage of their sports betting profits – this is totally separate from the state’s cut. However, West Virginia casino operators are saying that they never agreed to pay the fee in case the Profession and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) is abolished and sports betting is legalized in the United States.
According to an article that was posted on the gaming industry’s “Sports Handle” website on May 10, during the closed-door meeting at the Lottery headquarters, “nothing and a lot happened.”
“A lot, because firsthand accounts of this closed-door meeting paint a colorful picture between attendees that include state lawmakers, a lobbyist for the NBA and NFL who has ties to Gov. Jim Justice (Larry Puccio); an appearance by the NHL, possibly the first time the league has gotten involved on sports wagering publicly; representatives from West Virginia University and Marshall, plus casino representatives and a ‘citizen volunteer’ for West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (Bray Cary), who did not attend in person but spoke by speakerphone. There was also some reported shouting, ‘shuttle diplomacy’ and an apparent conflict of interest in play,” reads a snippet of the article.
John Cavacini, the president of the West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association, said that the day-long meeting came to a close with the casino operators remaining opposed to the incorporation of an integrity fee that is to be paid to the professional sports leagues.
However, Cavacini revealed that there was a conceptual agreement for the casino operators to enter into private contracts with the sports leagues to provide them with game data that would be necessary for sports betting. The only alternative that the leagues would have is to buy data from third-party providers.
“We’re trying to get the leagues some money, but we’re not going to pay the integrity fee,” John Cavacini said.
As it stands, West Virginia lawmakers have shown very little interest in revisiting the sports betting law that they just recently passed, according to MetroNews. This implies that it will take a bit of time before the tug of war between the casino operators and state is won by either party.