West Virginia Self-Exclusion Harassment Bill Heads To Governor Justice

Written By Corey Sharp on March 11, 2024
Photo of WV Gov. Jim Justice for a story about a new bill that would ban sports bettors who harass athletes and refs heading to Gov. Justice's desk for the final step.

House Bill 4700, which excludes bettors from threatening players, coaches or referees of a sporting event, has moved through the legislative process quickly. The bill advanced out of the West Virginia House and is currently going to Gov. Jim Justice’s desk, where it will wait for approval.

The new piece of legislation is Justice’s signature away from getting passed, which puts an added precedence on responsible gambling in West Virginia.

Harassment bill has one more step before passing in Mountain State

HB 4700 made tremendous progress from last year, and has moved quickly this session. Shawn Fluharty, Minority Whip in the West Virginia House of Delegates, introduced the bill in January.

The bill passed through the Judiciary Committee last month and then the West Virginia House last week. It’s a huge step considering Fluharty debuted the bill last year, but did not have success.

The West Virginia sports betting market is not only attempting to protect the industry, but those on the field and court, too. The bill reads:

“A patron may be banned from sports betting pursuant to subsection (d) of this section if the commission determines that the patron has harassed or shown a harmful pattern of conduct directed at a sports official, coach or any participants of a sporting event.”

West Virginia is soon to join Ohio as the first two states to pass similar laws. University of Dayton men’s basketball coach, Anthony Grant, brought this bad behavior to light after a game last year, when he said at a press conference:

“There’s some laws that have recently been enacted, that really, to me, could change the landscape of what college sports is all about. And when we have people that make it about themselves and attack kids because of their own agenda, it sickens me. They have families. They don’t deserve that. Mental health is real.”

Sports betting harassment legislation hopefully filters out bad behavior across US

There have been several instances of angry sports bettors threatening players and coaches on social media. Former Ohio State basketball player, EJ Liddell, was subject to a series of threats and violence on social platforms after the Buckeyes lost as a No. 2 seed in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

There is no excuse for a bettor to act out of frustration and put it on a player, let alone a collegiate athlete. In an interview in 2021, Liddell said:

“I know a lot of fans act out of emotion … Hopefully, they can realize that threats are taken seriously.”

Once Grant spoke up about harassment some of his players were facing, the state of Ohio stepped up and passed a similar law last year.

Fluharty, who spearheaded the bill in West Virginia, spoke to the importance of interstate cooperation. On the Safe Bet Show podcast in December, Fluharty said:

“I border Ohio and Pennsylvania and if Ohio passes a law that says if you threaten a player we’re going to take away your ability to bet. But if we don’t share that information with West Virginia or Pennsylvania, then it doesn’t really have any teeth to it.”

Once Justice signs the bill, Fluharty will get his wish. Hopefully other states can introduce and pass comparable legislation soon to protect sports participants.

Photo by Chris Jackson / AP
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayWV bringing you coverage of the WV online casino market in the Mountain State. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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