The start of the football season in the United States hit the newly legal sports betting scene in the state hard and in a good way. The college football season began this past weekend with hundreds of games and the professional season will begin on Thursday and then continue on Sunday and Monday.
Ready and Waiting
West Virginia is one of the very few states to have been ready to incorporate legal sports betting in anticipation of the favorable ruling from the US Supreme Court which they issued in May. The Supreme Court basically said that each state could decide for itself if it wanted to legalize sports betting or not and to regulate it as it saw fit.
A New Type of Casino Bonus
As far as sports bettors are concerned, it makes little difference if they can place sports bets at an online site or if they have to travel a short distance to a land based casino in order to be able to place their bets. In either case, legal sports betting is the newest form of casino bonuses, giving sports fans the chance to parley their sports knowledge into successful bets every weekend.
The decision voided on strictly constitutional grounds the law known as PASPA which for almost three decades sought to “protect” amateur and professional sports from the threat posed by sports gambling despite the facts that four states were allowed by the law to keep their sports betting arrangements and that tens of billions of dollars were bet illegally on sports anyway.
One Man’s Thoughts
A resident of the state, Shane Scurto, was quoted in the online version of the Herald-mail newspaper which serves the border communities of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; Hagerstown, Maryland; and Martinsburg, West Virginia. Mr. Scurto said that the bet he placed legally would be the first of many. He was betting on the West Virginia college football team. “This is huge, really, really huge to be able to do this right here instead of having to go offshore and deal with people from other countries.”
Effects of Legal Sports Betting
Shane Scurto was one of many sports bettors who thought that they were placing legal bets with offshore bookies before the practice became legal in West Virginia. Mr. Scurto made one of the most important insights: “Now the money will go to taxes, and also help to create jobs.”
Sports betting is seen by many jurisdictions as a good source of tax revenue and as a growth industry that will ultimately put many formerly unemployed people back to work.
The four states that were grandfathered into the law that sought to protect sports were Delaware, Oregon, Montana, and, of course, Nevada. The latter was the only state that had full-blown sports betting; the others had modified forms of the practice.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision only West Virginia, New Jersey, and Mississippi have gone all-in on sports betting.
The fact that the massive amount of sports betting that took place in West Virginia on the first weekend of the college football season was reported by a newspaper that serves a three state border community indicates how far ahead of the other states West Virginia has been.
As opposed to the west where the states are vast and it takes hours to travel to a land based casino, in the east the states are quite small. There are also many land based casinos in most states so residents can place their bets with relative ease.
The casinos that took the bets this first weekend will not always get players from Maryland and Pennsylvania, but until these states make sports betting both legal and fairly regulated, West Virginia will enjoy a tax windfall of sorts.
How West Virginia will Divvy Up the Money
Legislators in West Virginia are already on record as saying that most of the tax revenues from sports betting, which may approach fifteen million dollars in the first year, will be allocated to education, seniors, and tourism.
The latter priority seems a bit out of place when compared to the first two but the thinking in the state legislature is that if they can find money to help promote tourism in the state, it would in the long run, create more tax revenue through hotel taxes, gasoline taxes, and sales taxes generally.
West Virginia tourism has long suffered from the bad reputation the state has had in the past. By earmarking some sports betting revenue to help attract tourists who are already in the area at Gettysburg and other popular locations, the state hopes to increase tourism and to end the misconceptions many people have had about the state for many years.
Football is of course not the only sports that people will be able to bet on in West Virginia. Every major sport and many “minor” sports will be covered as well. This points to one of the top priorities of new sports bettors and the state as well.
For the state, it wants to keep problem gambling to the barest minimum. By offering sports betting, the state is actually promoting gambling which may cause a rise in problem gambling. The remedy is to encourage all sports bettors to learn as much as they can about any sports before betting on it.
That’s the reason the state began sports betting to coincide with college football which the people of West Virginia follow a lot more closely than they follow professional football, baseball, or basketball.
Since sports betting was legal in only four states, many bettors simply placed their bets illegally. Many people who might have liked to place a sports bet didn’t do so because of the legal constraints. Legal sports betting is expected to add to the amount of money wagered on sports in the United States. The exact range of the increase is unknown but that there are many billions of dollars in tax revenue newly available to the states is an undeniable fact.