Presidential betting gets axed quickly in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — For just a moment, West Virginia was the only state in the country to allow betting on the presidential election.

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The short-lived play by bookmaker giant FanDuel, which was approved by the state lottery board, was announced and then quickly nixed 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 it took just one bet in the roughly hourlong window where wagers were accepted, though it wouldn't say who it was for or how much was involved.

The company said it would have been fielding bets online and, eventually, allowed 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 about two hours after its initial announcement, saying “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.”

The state's top election official moved to shut things down quickly.

“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.”

FanDuel was also offering bets on who would get the Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominations, which political party would win and on which party would win each state.

West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers issued a statement Wednesday evening saying his office “screwed up.”

“I thought it would be okay, but after review, it was clearly a mistake,” he said. “We just screwed up. I didn’t have the authority to do it, it should have never happened and I apologize to everyone.”

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Associated Press writer Wayne Parry in Atlantic City, N.J., contributed to this report.