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Ferns introduces sports betting bill

WHEELING — A bill to permit legalized sports betting at West Virginia casinos was introduced Monday in the state Senate, but even if passed, the measure would still be subject to federal action.

Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, introduced Senate Bill 415 on Monday, and Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, says similar legislation will be forthcoming in the House later this week. Lawmakers worked to craft the bill with representatives from the West Virginia Lottery Commission.

The legislation would permit each of West Virginia’s five racetrack casinos — Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Ranson, W.Va., and the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort near Charleston — and the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs to apply for a license for a sports betting operation.

The bill limits the number of sports betting locations in the state to five.

Also in the bill is language stating that if the bill is approved, it would not become effective unless Congress acts to authorize sports wagering, or the U.S. Supreme Court renders an opinion permitting states to start sports betting games.

“It would not go into effect until we receive a favorable decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that overturns the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — which we anticipate occurring in late spring or early summer — or if the federal law is repealed. “SB 415 required the lottery to file a notice on the public register when either of these events occurs. And then we can accept wagers.”

Under the bill, no local government would be permitted to pass a law to ban sports betting.

Casinos applying for a sports betting license would be required to submit a $250,000 application fee, and the initial license would be valid for five years. After this, the casino would be subject to a $100,000 renewal fee.

The state would impose and collect a 10 percent fee from the casino’s adjusted gross sports wagering receipts, and this money would go into a West Virginia Sports Wagering Fund created by the legislation.

Fluharty believes the legislation will be passed this session, and the result will be profits for West Virginia.

“It is clear that sports betting now has full bipartisan support,” he said. “I’ve worked with the West Virginia Lottery to get a comprehensive piece of legislation that is expected to generate $34 million in its first year — all without raising taxes or fees on West Virginians.”

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