W.Va. Senate Approves Bill to Legalize Fantasy Sports Gaming

Feb 18, 2016

On an 18-16 vote, which was not along party lines, senators approved a bill that allows online fantasy sports leagues to operate in West Virignia.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump explained that while the online games are not currently illegal in West Virginia, the bill clarifies that West Virginians can participate in the programs without fear of legal repercussions. 

The bill does not assess any special taxes or fees for companies that set up such operations. 

Democratic Sen. John Unger argued on the floor there is no difference between these fantasy sports games and horse racing, a form of legalized gambling, but one that is regulated by the state of West Virginia.

Unger argued the bill targets children and young people, drawing them to participate in an addictive form of "entertainment."

"We're making a very significant and important policy decision without any oversight or regulation by the state or the ability to assess some type of fee or tax," Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler said on the floor.

Kessler maintained the bill would allow a new form of gambling, but all forms of legal gambling in West Virginia bring dedicated dollars into the state's coffers to fund senior programs, school facilities projects, and the Promise Scholarship, among others. 

"This is something the federal government says is not gambling," Republican Sen. Craig Blair said on the floor.

"This bill makes it clear West Virginians of legal age can participate in a form of entertainment if they choose to. It's not gambling, it's a skill."

House Bill 529 now heads to the House of Delegates for its consideration.