Just when we thought betting in West Virginia was going to slow down for the foreseeable future, some surprising news hit our inbox.
On Tuesday, FanDuel Sportsbook announced via an email to its customers that the West Virginia Lottery approved betting on the 2020 Presidential Election.
Betting options were available for a short time on Tuesday. Shortly after they were posted, however, the odds were no longer available. The available options were:
- 2020 Presidential Election (Donald Trump -110, Joe Biden +125)
- Democratic Nominee (Biden -714, Andrew Cuomo +1400, Bernie Sanders +1600)
- Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee (Kamala Harris +188, Amy Klobuchar +400)
- US Presidential Election 2020 – Winning Party (Republican -125, Democrat -110)
- State by State Winning Party
The email statement said only betting on the national presidential election was approved.
Currently, FanDuel only accepts bets online. All five WV casinos are currently closed, including The Greenbrier.
Mike Raffensperger CMO, FanDuel Group released this statement.
“As the leading American sportsbook, we’re excited to be the first to offer legal political betting, proving once again there truly are more ways to win on FanDuel.
We’re proud to have partnered with the West Virginia Lottery to bring these markets into a legal, regulated sportsbook where bettors have appropriate protections and assurances.”
Is presidential election betting legal?
FanDuel would be the first legal sportsbook able to accept presidential election bets in the US.
However, there are questions about the legality of this milestone.
Legal Sports Report legal writer John Holden is one of those questioning the legality of such a move.
“Wagering on political markets is explicitly prohibited by statute in a number of states, and most states have found it incompatible with public policy in another of other places,” Holden said.
The West Virginia Code related to election law states:
“It shall be unlawful to bet or wager money or other thing of value on any election held in this state.”
We have reached out to the West Virginia Lottery for comment. Randy Burnside with the WV Lottery responded:
“It is my understanding that we were asked by the sportsbooks to allow betting on the presidential election and it is being reviewed. I think possibly someone jumped before being given an approval.”
That explains why the odds were abruptly pulled.
Shortly after, FanDuel issued this statement on the political betting market:
“While the markets were approved, the West Virginia Lottery has asked FanDuel to refrain from offering the markets until they have time to fully work through the implications of this new market offering.”
The West Virginia Lottery then issued a revised statement:
“The markets were initially approved, however, the West Virginia Lottery has asked FanDuel to refrain from offering the markets until we have time to fully work through the implications and research it further.”
The fallout from prematurely posting presidential betting odds
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner spoke with WV MetroNews following the premature posting of presidential betting odds on Tuesday night. Warner confirmed that election betting is illegal in the state.
“I do not know the exact facts, but I can tell you it’s illegal, somebody jumped the gun, nobody should be betting on presidential elections in West Virginia or anywhere.”
Warner’s office is investigating the matter.
Gov. Jim Justice also weighed in on the matter, initially dismissing the issue and even providing betting advice on which presidential candidate to bet on.
Justice changed his tune during his morning COVID-19 press conference. Saying he didn’t realize earlier that someone in the Lottery approved the plan.
“The very second I found out about it, I disapproved it because we’re not going to do that. That’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s humorous but it’s ridiculous.”
He assured that the issue will be dealt with “sternly.”
On Wednesday afternoon, nearly 24 hours after we first heard that election betting was live in WV, Play WV received the following statement from the WV Lottery.
West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers acknowledged Wednesday that Governor Jim Justice’s Office had not been informed about the sports betting app FanDuel launching a site for wagering on the 2020 Presidential election and that the decision to do so was a mistake.
Tuesday evening, on its West Virginia platform, FanDuel Sportsbook opened up wagering on the 2020 Presidential election. FanDuel said it had received permission from the West Virginia Lottery. We quickly realized we had made a mistake and the offering was pulled approximately two hours later.
“I didn’t inform the Governor about it,” Myers said. “I thought it would be okay, but after review, it was clearly a mistake. We just screwed up. I didn’t have the authority to do it, it should have never happened and I apologize to everyone.”
This is a developing story. Stay tuned.