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Posted on: March 4, 2024, 10:16h. 

Last updated on: March 4, 2024, 11:05h.

West Virginia lawmakers are considering legislation that would ban bettors from the state’s legal sports betting market who are found to have harassed or threatened athletes and anyone else involved in a game.

West Virginia sports betting responsible gaming
West Virginia lawmaker Del. Shawn Fluharty (D) is seeking to increase protections for players, officials, and team personnel in the state’s legal sports betting environment. Fluharty also wants online interests to share their data to improve responsible gaming safeguards. (Image: WV Legislative Photography)

House Bill 4700 passed the West Virginia House of Delegates last week. The vote was nearly unanimous at 90-1, with nine members abstaining. The lone dissenter was Del. Geoff Foster (R-Putnam). Foster chairs the state’s Freedom Caucus, an organization focused on smaller government and personal freedoms.

Foster’s 90 colleagues voted in bipartisan support of HB 4700. The statute was introduced by two Republicans and two Democrats – Del. Jarred Cannon (R-Putnam), Del. Diana Winzenreid (R-Ohio), Del. Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio), and Del. Sean Hornbuckle (D-Cabell).

The bipartisan sports betting bill seeks to provide the West Virginia Lottery Commission, which regulates the state’s gaming industry, to ban individuals who harass or assault anyone involved with a professional or collegiate sporting event.

The statute has moved to the state Senate and directed to the chamber’s Judiciary Committee.

Qualifying Crimes

HB 4700 provides several criteria for a bettor to be placed on the state’s list of prohibited sports betting persons.

The commission shall promulgate a legislative rule … that enumerates the reasons for which patrons of sports gaming may be banned from engaging in sports betting,” the proposed law reads.

The bill suggests banning anyone convicted of a misdemeanor for felony assault or battery against an athletic official, athlete, or team personnel. Anyone whom the lottery deems to have violated an order of the commission also risks a ban from sportsbooks. If the commission determines that a person poses a threat to the safety of participants and officials, they too risk being placed on the excluded persons list.

If the legislation passes the Senate and is signed by Gov. Jim Justice (R), the lottery would also be tasked with setting forth a procedure for players, team members, and officials to lodge complaints against patron behavior. The commission would then investigate the claim to determine whether a ban is warranted. Anyone recommended for a ban would be entitled to a hearing before the commission executes the exclusion.

Responsible Gaming Bill

Another gaming measure that recently passed the state House called the Responsible Gaming and Research Act would require the state’s licensed internet gaming operators to share data to assist state agencies in developing better programs to reduce problem gambling.

House Bill 5668 passed the House last week, 84-12. HB 5688 is cosponsored by Fluharty with Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay).

The statute would require iGaming platforms and online sportsbooks to share anonymous player behavior data with West Virginia University to assist the state’s Department of Human Services “to improve state-funded services related to responsible gambling and problem gambling.” The data would be anonymized to exclude personal identifying information and wouldn’t become public record.

West Virginia is one of just six states that allows online slots, table games, and sports betting. HB 5688 has also been directed to the Senate Judiciary Committee for initial review in the upper chamber.

West Virginia’s 2024 legislative session runs through this week.

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