With the world of sports in the United States shut down due to the coronavirus, sportsbooks are looking for new ways to bring in business. FanDuel Sportsbook in West Virginia was hoping that bets on the 2020 presidential race would be a way to take some bets, and they offered odds on Tuesday night. Less than 24 hours later, the bet was removed, and now some industry leaders are apologizing for even putting the bet out there in the first place.
FanDuel Sportsbook is partnered with the GreenBrier Casino in West Virginia, and they announced that they would begin taking bets on the 2020 Presidential election. FanDuel issued a press release on Tuesday night that West Virginia will be the first state to legalize political betting, and they offered odds on their mobile app.
The press release stated that bets would eventually be available inside of the casino as well. By Wednesday afternoon, the plan was canceled, and it appears that there will be no bets taken on politics.
West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers acknowledged FanDuel establishing this bet on Tuesday night, and stated that Governor Jim Justice had been notified. Myers was forced to issue an apology on Wednesday, stating that he did not have the authority to allow such betting, and his office made a big mistake. He stated that more research needs to be done before West Virginia gives approval to offer bets on political events.
Governor Jim Justice and his family own and operate the Greenbrier Casino and resort, and he was not happy that the bet was offered in the first place. In his comments on Wednesday, he noted that he put a stop to it as soon as he heard about it, and doesn’t understand how FanDuel Sportsbook was given the approval to begin with.
FanDuel Sportsbook announced that bets on the 2020 Presidential election would be taken as well as bets on the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. The company was also planning to release odds for the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination as well as offering prop bets surrounding individual states and their voting results.
FanDuel noted that the Lottery had given them approval, but the Lottery Director John Myers was the only one that approved it. His apology statement came shortly after the Governor disapproved of the entire process.
Why The Change
One of the reasons that Justice shut down the betting so quickly is because he and his family own the casino and resort. Justice became Governor of West Virginia in 2016 as a Democrat but switched to the Republican Party less than a year later. He is up for re-election this year, and he is facing at least six candidates in the Republican primary race.
His number one threat is former commerce secretary Woody Thrasher. Thrasher’s campaign quickly noted that this bet being offered by FanDuel Sportsbook would benefit Justice and his campaign for re-election.
Justice’s campaign manager Larry Puccio is one of the top donors to the Governor’s re-election campaign. Puccio represents both FanDuel Sportsbook and the Greenbrier Casino, and it would have been a major conflict of interest.
West Virginia Secretary of State Andrew Warner noted that there has been a law in the state for over 150 years that outlaws betting on elections. The West Virginia Lottery Commission does have the power to allow bets to be taken on any other special event that they authorize.
This would give them the power to legalize election betting, but it would create a major fight in the state legislature. Other states throughout the country are allowing sportsbooks to offer bets on unique events under these circumstances, but no state has currently allowed political betting.