West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recently issued an opinion stating that select fantasy sports are legal, based upon a review of existing state law.
West Virginia Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, requested the attorney general’s written opinion in light of Senate-passed legislation that died in the House of Delegates. The proposal, Senate Bill 529, would have explicitly permitted certain fantasy sports as defined in the legislation.
“Fantasy sports games are a bit different than games that are decided predominately by chance,” Morrisey said. “So if you play fantasy sports that are set up the right way, then this decision makes it clear that you can continue to participate.”
Fantasy sports, as defined by the Senate and considered by the attorney general, are simulation games in which the player creates his or her own team of professional athletes and competes against similarly created teams managed by other participants. Leagues exist for several professional sports including football, baseball and hockey.
The ability to win cash prizes through fantasy sports is what called the legality into question, as West Virginia’s Constitution prohibits private lotteries and other games of chance.
The attorney general’s opinion found that fantasy sports are not games of chance. Instead, it concluded fantasy sports are permitted by state law because any cash prize or other award is based upon the player’s skill in selecting athletes and the actual performance of those athletes. In order to succeed, the fantasy sports player must put together a team that will bring in the most points.