No News Is Not Good News For West Virginia Sports Betting

Posted on June 27, 2019

When it comes to West Virginia sports betting, no news is NOT good news. Yet, that is precisely where things stand.

West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers, speaking after a Lottery Commission meeting on Wednesday, says it will be “football season” before an online sportsbook in West Virginia becomes a reality.

During that meeting, the Commission voted to relicense all five West Virginia casinos:

Myers commented on the renewals:

“All casino licenses were paid. All of the license fees were paid. We’re glad to see they’re all well enough to re-up for another year.”

What about WV online sports betting?

It has been two months since the Lottery approved three online sportsbooks to operate in the Mountain State:

All signs indicate DraftKings will be the first to launch when online betting does return.

First and foremost, it is the only online betting app to pass the testing required by the Lottery. It is also the only online sportsbook talking, even though it is not saying much.

In a statement on Wednesday, Tim Dent, DraftKings’ chief compliance officer, says the company looks forward to announcing a firm launch date.

DraftKings has been working closely with the Lottery to ensure compliance with all state and federal laws.

Myers said:

“It’s a shame. We thought we had it up, had it going, but it shut down, now I can’t really give you a date.”

Of course, Myers is referring to the closure of Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island sportsbooks, along with their online sports betting app, BetLucky.

All three WV sportsbooks ceased operations on March 6, 2019. The casinos’ owner, Delaware North, filed suit to sever ties with its betting supplier, Miomni as a result.

Myers cites “bad luck” due to the contract dispute and the 2018 revised interpretation of the Wire Act for the delay.

The reality of the situation, though, is the revised interpretation really didn’t change anything when it comes to sports betting. The Wire Act already applied to sports betting before the new opinion was issued.

Sports betting revenue potential

According to figures from Wednesday’s meeting, sports betting revenue in May was about $80,000. That pales in comparison to that of other gambling products in the state:

  • Racetracks ($44.5 million)
  • Video lottery machines ($34.3 million)
  • Lottery games ($17.2 million)

Six of the seven weeks with handle of more than $4 million came when online sports betting was available. Today’s reality is handle hasn’t reached $3 million in the last three months.

In a rural state such as West Virginia, online access to sports betting is how everyone wins.

Casinos win because they make more money.

The state wins because they collect more tax revenue.

And bettors win because legal and regulated betting options protect them.

Unfortunately, the flip side of that is now the reality.

What does all this mean for the WV sports betting market? Well, it is naive to think WV bettors simply stopped betting.

Granted, those in the Northern part of the state may be driving across the border into Pennsylvania. The first PA sports betting app launched last month. Two more have launched since.

And of course, some bettors are fortunate enough to live near one of the three active sportsbooks in the state.

Unfortunately, though, many bettors will find other means to place their bets. And those means are most likely not legal and not regulated.

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