Jumping the "Prop" Gun on Presidential Betting in West VirginiaPublished May 4, 2020 by Lee R
Unique to the times, a controversy arises in West Virginia as to whether Presidential betting is a prop bet.
More facts have emerged regarding the Presidential betting blip in West Virginia.
The Prop Controversy
In a curious interpretation which proved to challenge both legal and betting definitions, citizens wagered on the outcome of the Presidential election, which both local licencing authority West Virginia Lottery and FanDuel Sportsbook categorized as a “prop bet,” aka “side bet,” on something during an event that does not affect or have to do with the outcome.
Except that FanDuel took down the wagers almost as soon as posting them--to the chagrin of West Virginia punters, who had responded enthusiastically to the bet post; and to the confusion of all other onlookers.
Secretary of State Speaks
It all seems to have happened rather quickly for Secretary of State Mac Warner, who said that despite not knowing “the exact facts...nobody should be betting on presidential elections in West Virginia or anywhere.”
This makes sense, but how FanDuel got the permission in the first place does not.
The Legal Standard
The exact legal application of West Virginia Code states:
“It shall be unlawful to bet or wager money or other thing of value on any election held in this state,” with violators “guilty of a misdemeanor,” and required to “forfeit the value of the money or thing so bet or wagered” and fined up to $50.
The Distinction from PASPA
Clearly, the law against Presidential betting represents a separate application than the allowance of online sports betting entirely. Nevada state even rejected a similar proposal seven years ago in 2013—well before PASPA's recent repeal in 2018.
Ultimately, Director of West Virginia Lottery John Myers took responsibility for ostensibly mis-interpreting approval from Governor Jim Justice for this type of “prop bet,” apologizing and asserting it
“never should’ve happened.”
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice was reportedly against the “prop bet” Presidential betting odds as soon as he found out. While acknowledging the humor and absurdity of the bets, he asserted that he is ultimately opposed to any Presidential betting in West Virginia.
It looks like the need to fill the current sports betting vacuum in West Virginia led to extremely “friendly” interpretation of both betting and Virginia law until cooler political heads prevailed.