West Virginia's Gov. Jim Justice says state casinos will be responsible for paying sports betting "integrity fees" if a new law comes to fruition. However, the announcement appears to have come prematurely from the governor’s office.
Justice said in a news release that representatives of the state lottery, professional sports leagues and casinos reached a tentative agreement on the fees following a Wednesday meeting.
“This was a difficult negotiation between many different parties, but the outcome will be very good for the State of West Virginia as well as the sports leagues,” Gov. Justice said in the release.
But casino owners and the state’s gaming association say there is no deal as of yet.
In response to @WVGovernor Jim Justice's statements today: “I was shocked. I was shocked,” said WVGRA President John Cavacini.
— WV Gaming & Racing (@WestVirginiaGRA) May 10, 2018
The statement from Justice’s office didn't provide details of the agreement. The governor’s office didn’t respond to requests for additional comment.
The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have been asking states to give them 1 percent of the total amount wagered on their games, which would pay for costs associated to ensure the integrity of the games and their outcomes.
West Virginia lawmakers this year approved sports betting at the state's five casinos and on approved mobile apps in the event that a U.S. Supreme Court case from New Jersey leads to the repeal of a ban in most states. The final version of West Virginia law did not call for the fees in question.
Justice says he insisted from the start that casinos pay the fees.
Some legislators and others are questioning whether the meeting took place illegally under the state’s open meetings law. There is no record of an announcement on the Secretary of State’s webpage that compiles a list of meeting announcements involving government agencies.
Del. Shawn Fluharty of Wheeling, a Democrat, said he is looking into filing suit in Kanawha County Circuit Court over the unannounced Wednesday meeting. He says that could lead to an injunction to prevent the issue being part of a special legislative session.
The premise of the WV Open Meetings Law is that a "meeting" takes place wherein discussions are had which could result in official action taking place. @WVGovernor just admitted in a press release that official action will take place following the meeting. #wvpol #SportsBetting
— Shawn Fluharty (@WVUFLU) May 10, 2018
The Legislature is slated to return to Charleston for interim meetings May 20 through 22. Many legislators are expecting a special session to coincide with those meetings. However, Fluharty said there is little interest among lawmakers to tweak the new sports betting law.
"There is zero appetite from both sides of the aisle for this to happen," Fluharty said. "There was no traction during the [regular] session."
Representatives of professional sports leagues, the West Virginia Lottery Commission and the governor's office met Wednesday to discuss the matter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.