Sports Betting in West Virginia Closes The Fiscal Year With A Whimper

Posted on July 19, 2019

It has been an incredible year for sports betting in West Virginia. The state has endured plenty of highs and lows through its first months of legal sports gambling.

WV debuted sports wagering in late Aug. 2018. Hollywood Sportsbook was the first land-based WV sportsbook available to the public.

Ten months later, a whole lot has happened. Sports betting has grown and since reduced in the Mountain State.

There were once as many as five active retail sportsbooks and a mobile app. Now, WV has been operating with just three land-based locations and no online sportsbook for more than four months.

With the state’s fiscal year ending at the conclusion of June, let’s examine how WV has fared in regards to sports betting within the state.

This report will include activity from July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019, for all five WV sportsbooks:

The only online sports betting app to launch in WV was the BetLucky App. It helped service both sportsbooks at Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras Casino.

However, both retail sportsbooks, along with BetLucky, were shut down in March.

While BetLucky appears to be gone forever, sports betting at Wheeling and Mardi Gras are expected to reopen at some point in the future. Like most other things in the state, a timetable has not been set.

As far as online sportsbooks, three new ones have been cleared to release in the WV sports betting market. They include:

The question remains when exactly these mobile options will become available to WV residents. WV Lottery Director John Myers has mentioned that he believes online betting will return in time for the beginning of college football season.

WV Sports Betting Summary

Here are the fiscal year’s figures released by the WV Lottery Commission since WV sports betting revenue tracking began in August 2018:

  • Handle: $127,991,375.33
  • Revenue: $11,934,024.35
  • Taxes: $1,193,402.55

It’s tough to gauge how well the state performed in terms of production because there are so many different variables. Simply comparing the statistics to those in New Jersey or other states is not a fair indication of how well WV did in its first year.

Population, along with the number of sportsbooks in the state, as well as the existence of online options, make it harder to come to any strong conclusions.

With that being said, it was reported by the WV News that the state’s Lottery Commission estimated that WV residents would gamble as much as $250 million on black market wagering.

It also stated that once sports betting was fully implemented within WV, it would generate around $5.5 million annually in taxable profits after five years of its existence.

While keeping those figures in mind, WV didn’t do too poorly in its first year. In just ten months time, the WV market was able to accept more than half of the estimated $250 million wagered and totaled nearly $1.2 million in taxes.

More impressive than the actual numbers is the fact that a large portion of this time was spent with only three active retail sportsbooks and zero online apps.

When will online sports betting return to WV?

John Myers provided his thoughts on WV’s sports betting start. He said:

“We didn’t really know exactly what we would do our very first year. We’re ending the year close to $1.2 million. I think it’s lower than what we expected, but not as much as what others expected it to be not having two of the casinos operating for part of the fiscal year. We would have seen some additional revenue, I’m sure, although we did get the majority of the football season, which is typically the largest revenue generator.”

Although there were sportsbooks operating during the football season, the state didn’t have an online platform until the very end of Dec. 2018. With the NFL season practically over, there was not enough time to see how an online sportsbook would affect the overall handle and revenue figures.

Retail sportsbooks are a great idea and fun for sports fans, however, they can’t be relied on strictly. Casual bettors love legal sports betting apps because they allow them to bet at their convenience and not travel at all.

If a mobile sportsbook emerges before the football season, expect betting figures to be much higher than they were in year one.

NJ is a perfect example of this. Even though it has 10 land-based sportsbooks, more than 83% of the Garden State’s revenue in June was through online sports betting.

Sports betting through mobile apps is the way of today and the future, so WV’s market potential can’t be completely understood until there are several offered in the state.

Hopefully, there are no more delays and WV residents will have access to at least one online sportsbook in time for college and NFL football.

A Closer Look At WV Sports Betting Handle

Breaking down WV’s first ten months of legal sports gambling by sportsbook provides some insight into where the state is today.

The most obvious aspect worth noting is the size of Hollywood Casino’s market share. Hollywood alone is responsible for more than 70% of the entire state’s handle. Although this is great for the Hollywood Sportsbook, it should definitely be a concern for the other books in WV.

Hollywood is able to attract a lot more bettors partly because of its geographical location. It’s positioned within an hour of:

  • Baltimore
  • Maryland
  • Washington, DC

It’s quite feasible that Hollywood simply has more foot traffic and that much of it is coming from out of state.

It’s also very impressive that Hollywood was able to accept nearly $100 million in wagers without an online option. Once DraftKings Sportsbook launches under Hollywood’s license, the casino could take stronger control of the market.

Mountaineer Casino finished second for the year with just under $20 million. Although this isn’t a bad figure, it isn’t too exciting either.

Mountaineer was able to beat the Mardi Gras Sportsbook by about just $10 million, a meager number since the latter was not accepting any wagers in the previous four months.

The other closed sportsbook, Wheeling Island, totaled just under $6 million for the year. If both Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras were able to keep their BetLucky App afloat, handle figures could have been much higher.

BetLucky wasn’t pulling in a crazy amount of action, however, it was clearly picking up momentum as the weeks went on.

The Greenbrier finished in last just behind Wheeling Island. The sportsbook will never be looked at as one that will drive the WV industry because it is part of a membership-only casino.

Here’s how the WV sportsbooks rank for yearly handle:

  1. Hollywood Casino ($89,675,047.54)
  2. Mountaineer Casino ($18,749,976.96)
  3. Mardi Gras Casino ($8,220,220.23)
  4. Wheeling Island ($5,859,271.15)
  5. The Greenbrier ($5,486,859.45)

A Closer Look At WV Sports Betting Revenue

The revenue figure distribution is very similar to the overall handle. Even though a higher handle doesn’t guarantee more revenue, it certainly helps.

Based on that information, it’s clear why Hollywood ran away with the most revenue earned for the year. Its sportsbook made nearly $9 million in a 10-month span. Just like handle, this total is more than 74% of the entire state’s revenue.

Mountaineer Sportsbook is in second for revenue, too. It was the only other sportsbook to generate more than $1 million in earnings.

Both Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras netted around $500,000 in their shortened year. These figures are actually very respectful considering their sportsbooks were open for less than three months.

It was evident that their online sportsbooks were helping their business grow, but that was only for a short period of time.

The Greenbrier once again comes in last. It made almost $430,000 in revenue for the year.

Here’s how the WV sportsbooks rank for yearly revenue:

  1. Hollywood Casino ($8,883,201.42)
  2. Mountaineer Casino ($1,631,561.28)
  3. Wheeling Island ($524,461.83)
  4. Mardi Gras Casino ($466,208.88)
  5. The Greenbrier ($428,590.94)
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Chris Imperiale

Chris Imperiale covers sports betting and the online casino industries. He has a journalism degree from Rutgers University and was formerly on staff at Bleacher Report.

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