A tentative agreement has been reached between the West Virginia lottery commission, the state's licensed casino operators and sports leagues for a potential partnership in a future legal sports betting market, Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday.
Representatives from Major League Baseball, NBA, PGA Tour and university officials from Marshall and West Virginia met with representatives from the casino industry Wednesday at the state lottery office.
"This was a difficult negotiation between many different parties, but the outcome will be very good for the State of West Virginia as well as the sports leagues," Justice wrote in a release.
Details of the agreement are sparse, and the casino industry is pushing back about any deal being completed. Justice, however, said in his Thursday release that a tentative agreement had been reached that will benefit all parties -- including state schools Marshall and West Virginia.
"We were surprised. It looks like the governor's office jumped the gun," Eric Schippers of Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, told WVmetronews.com.
"There is no agreement," Schippers added. "There are the bones of an agreement. There are concepts that both sides are discussing further, but it's still at the conceptual phrase. There is no agreement in place."
A spokesman for the West Virginia governor's office said, "the process is still in the very early stages and many details still need to be worked out."
West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons, university vice president Rob Alsop and Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick attended Wednesday's meeting, as did former U.S. Congressman Tom McMillen, who now heads the Division I Athletic Directors Association.
Sources familiar with the negotiations told ESPN that the universities' input was valuable to the discussions and that the schools were looking to participate in some way in the agreement and to receive funds, potentially from the general budget, to put toward any increased compliance or enforcement cost that the legalization of sports betting could cause.
"If this is legalized, what the ADs said is that we'll have to spend more money on compliance and we're going to have increased risk," McMillen told ESPN in a Thursday phone interview. "What was shown, at schools with regulated [sports betting] markets -- Nevada, UNLV -- they spend considerably more on compliance, because it's more open, more transparent, more in your face than the other schools where it's illegal. The fact of the matter is that the onus is going to fall on Marshall and West Virginia."
ESPN has reached out to West Virginia and Marshall for comment.
The State of West Virginia passed a bill in March that would legalize sports betting in the state -- if the federal ban on state-sponsored is lifted by the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is poised to release an opinion on sports betting by the end of June.
"All of this is a moot issue until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the legality of sports gaming across the country," Justice wrote in his release.
In the meantime, according to the release, West Virginia lottery director Alan Larrick will be working on ways to implement a way to provide the leagues a fee.
The NBA, MLB and PGA Tour have been lobbying in many of the states that are looking to offer legal sports betting. The sports leagues have requested stipulations be included in any sports betting laws, including data rights and a percentage of the amount bet on their respective sports. West Virginia's legislation did not include such stipulations, but Justice had been encouraging the parties to get together to negotiate.
ESPN has reached out the NBA and MLB for comment.