Positive West Virginia sports betting results may have added benefit to the state’s horse racing industry.
The West Virginia horse racing industry
For several years, the West Virginia horse racing industry has struggled, but recent developments in sports betting may have an added impact to a sport that has roots in the state dating back to the 1930s.
The state legalized sports betting at its casinos and “racinos,” horse and dog tracks with casino-style betting. That casino gambling includes video lottery, slot machine-style games as well as table games.
Some of that revenue is diverted to support the state’s horse racing industry and one of the biggest funds includes the Purse Fund, which is the biggest pool of revenue supporting the industry.
West Virginia Public Radio noted in July:
“Each year, a certain portion of tax dollars and casino revenue goes into this fund. The cash mostly comes from video lottery, table games, and betting at the state’s four casinos. But the Purse Fund has dropped over the years – from about $75 million four or five years ago to about $40 million in 2018.”
West Virginia sports betting to the rescue
In recent years, state lawmakers have questioned using the funds to help finance a struggling industry. It appears those in the racing industry have some reason for hope – and sports betting may possibly be playing a role.
The Williamstown Daily News recently reported:
“For the first time in nearly seven years, West Virginia racetrack casinos saw an upturn in video lottery and table games revenue in December, seemingly supporting claims that opening sports betting sportsbooks would increase foot traffic at the four locations.”
In December, gross revenue at the state’s racetrack video lottery machines saw an increase from 10 percent to $43.42 million from November. That was an increase of 8 percent from December a year earlier.
West Virginia legalized sports betting in August, the fifth state to do so. Initially, only casinos and tracks were allowed to take bets but now mobile betting is also a possibility through the BetLucky Sportsbook, a partnership of between Delaware North (operator of the Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras casinos) and Miomni Gaming.
DraftKings Sportsbook is also working to launch a mobile app soon and has already been approved in the state to do so.
The WV economy and sports betting
State lottery officials credit an improved economy in recent months as well as the renewed interest in sports wagering as luring more gamblers to the tracks and casinos.
Those totals may show an even bigger increase for January as Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras casinos only launched sports betting on Dec. 27.
West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers told the Daily News:
“Sports betting has to help, of course, with more people coming in the doors and spending time. With a good economy, you have more spending. You have more dollars to put toward entertainment.”
Hollywood Casino had the highest net sports betting revenue, $1.6 million. Trailing behind were the Mountaineer ($444,303) and The Greenbrier ($151,477).
Video lottery terminal wagering wasn’t the only gaming segment to see a revenue increase. Casino table gaming also saw a significant increase in revenue. It was up 13 percent to $3.25 million from November, and also up 13 percent from December of 2017.
These figures appear to be part of an overall upward trend corresponding with sports betting legalization. In December, the state’s 10 percent privilege tax on sports betting profits was $234,255. That figure accounted for a 76 percent increase from November.
As sports wagering continues to take off in West Virginia and around the country, it’s a good bet those totals will continue to rise throughout the coming months. It will be interesting to see the effects on revenue of the recent Super Bowl and the upcoming March Madness.