West Virginia has its second chance in the past few years to change its sports gambling landscape. The state’s lawmakers passed one of the nation’s most in-depth gaming bills and one step remains before it can become law.
That step is a big one: A signature from Gov. Jim Justice.
The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act would regulate online poker and casino gambling. The state’s General Assembly easily passed the bill in the last few days of the 2019 legislative session.
The governor’s next action will decide the fate of this legislation is passed. It’s not the first time this waiting game has occurred.
Justice did not sign the 2018 bill, which would have allowed for gamblers to bet on sports online and in person. The governor cited a conflict of interest; his family owns the famous Greenbrier Resort, which can take bets, according to the law.
Justice never vetoed it outright, leading the bill to become law. But state government officials gridlocked the bill’s implantation for months.
To generate better terms for professional sports leagues, many outsiders and critics have said that Justice has hoped for the bill to be rewritten to introduce more favorable terms for those leagues. That was a big reason the bill came to a halt last year.
The Greenbrier Resort has been home to various NFL franchises for training camps, including the New Orleans Saints a few years ago and the Houston Texans for the past two years. Houston makes the 1,000-mile trip to the luxurious resort, which is on 11,000 acres in the Allegheny Mountains.
"We love The Greenbrier," Texans coach Bill O'Brien told the Houston Chronicle last summer. "I think it gives us an opportunity to get away and just kind of be on our own out here and develop some chemistry. The Greenbrier people are awesome. Really great hospitality, can't say enough about how they treat us here and the facilities are great, field looks great. We're excited to be here."
Despite his enthusiasm, the Texans will likely stay home for this year’s training camp. Houston signed a 3-year pact with the resort in 2017 but the third year was a team option for this summer.
On top of the NFL ventures at the facility, the resort also hosts the Greenbrier Classic, a PGA Tour event held annually since 2010.
With the latest sports betting bill, Greenbrier could bolster its revenue along with the four other casinos under regulation in West Virginia.
Justice has yet to comment about this new bill publicly.
The lawmakers in the state put the bill on Justice’s desk on March 9. West Virginia law requires a veto within 15 days after the General Assembly passes a bill.
The clock is ticking for Justice’s decision. The bill will come into law automatically if he doesn’t take any action.