West Virginia officials strongly against halted election betting plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For a moment, West Virginia looked like it was going to allow betting on the presidential election.

The short-lived play by bookmaker giant FanDuel, which was approved by the state lottery board, was announced and nixed within the span of about two hours Tuesday night in a bizarre sequence that appeared to baffle top government officials.

"I thought, you know, are you kidding me? The first thing that came to my mind was, you know, what next?'' Republican Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday. "It's humorous, but it's ridiculous.''

FanDuel, which had President Donald Trump as a slight favorite over Democrat Joe Biden, said West Virginia would have been the first state in the nation to allow legal betting on the election. The company's platform would have immediately been able to take online bets and, eventually, allow wagering at The Greenbrier resort, a lavish hotel owned by Justice where FanDuel operates. The governor said he was not aware of the deal until after it was announced.

The company issued a second statement saying that "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.''

Voicemails and emails left with a spokesman for the state lottery board were not immediately returned.

The state's top election official seemed similarly confused.

"Gambling on elections has been illegal in West Virginia since 1868,'' Secretary of State Mac Warner said in a statement. "Gambling on the outcome of an election has no place in our American democracy. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. This is a terrible idea. Let's shut this down right now and be very clear about it.''

Bets could have also been placed on who would get the Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominations, which political party would win and which party would win each state.

"It is absolutely ridiculous, that's just all there is to it,'' Justice said.