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West Virginia Legislators Approve Bill to Curb Sports Betting Harassment

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated Feb 29, 2024 · 7:11 AM PST

WVU helmet
Jul 14, 2022; Arlington, TX, USA; A view of the West Virginia Mountaineers helmet logo during the Big 12 Media Day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
  • A bill giving the lottery commission the power to ban individuals from sports betting was approved by the House of Delegates
  • The bill is designed to protect athletes from harassment
  • Legislation now heads to the Senate

West Virginia legislation to protect athletes from harassment stemming from sports betting outcomes has taken a big step towards becoming reality.

The West Virginia House of Delegates approved HB 4700 by a 90-1 vote, with nine abstentions, to give the West Virginia Lottery Commission the power to ban individuals from sports betting if they’re found harassing athletes, coaches, or officials at a sporting event.

West Virginia would become the latest state to pass legislation to ban individuals from sports betting based on their conduct.

States Have Responsibility to Stop Harassment

Sports betting is a privilege for West Virginia residents, Delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio), the main author of the bill, told Sports Betting Dime. The state has the responsibility to protect athletes and curb harmful behavior.

Fluharty introduced his bill on Jan. 15. He introduced a similar bill in 2023, but it was not approved.

This legislation, he noted, will give the West Virginia Lottery Commission the power to ensure harassment is not tolerated.

“With an increase in those participating in sports betting combined with the ease of direct access to players through social media, threats to participants cannot be tolerated. Sports betting is a privilege which can be revoked. Player safety is paramount on and off the field and states operating sports betting have an obligation to ensure proper protections are in place,” he said.

If approved by the Senate, the West Virginia Lottery Commission will officially create a legislative rule detailing why individuals could potentially be banned from participating in sports betting in the state. These reason will include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • A prior conviction of this code
  • A prior violation of an order from the lottery commission
  • If the commission determines that the person poses a threat to the safety of patrons or participants in a sporting event or determines that the person has engaged in a pattern of conduct of harassing a sports official, coach, or any participants.

Individuals will be notified of the commission’s decision and will have the opportunity to request a hearing in their defense before the ban is instituted in full.

Next Wave of Legislation?

With West Virginia focused on providing athletes new protections, will other states soon follow suit?

Bordering Ohio included a similar sports betting harassment provision in its 2024-2025 FY budget, which allows state regulators to permanently ban or place sports bettors on an exclusionary list if they’re found to be threatening athletes over a sporting event.

It was the first ever such provision approved by a state.

Ohio Casino Control Commission Executive Director Matt Schuler called for action in January 2023 after he became aware of several incidents of state bettors threatening members of the University of Dayton’s men’s basketball team.

The state recently also approved a ban on player-specific college prop bets after a request from the NCAA. One of the main points of concern from the NCAA regarding player-prop bets on college sports was a proliferation of harassment from bettors towards athletes if they lost a bet.

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