Put Down Your Phones; WV Online Betting Suffers Another Setback

Posted on June 7, 2019

The West Virginia Lottery issued a statement a few weeks ago about the imminent launch of DraftKings Sportsbook. Since then, players have been downloading the app and checking it daily hoping for some good news.

It didn’t take long for reality to set in, however, as Lottery Director John Myers, announced this week that the wait for online sports betting in WV could be “several more weeks.”

Wire Act: The gift that keeps on giving

The delay appears to stem from issues surrounding compliance with the Wire Act.

On Tuesday, Myers indicated that the location of DraftKings’ wallet server, the server that contains account balance information, is in question. Currently, the wallet server is in New Jersey.

The Wire Act prohibits the electronic transfer of betting information across state lines. While no betting data will pass through to that server, the Lottery believes it would be prudent to require that server also be located in West Virginia.

The tests, among other things, ensured the app met the legal requirements of the Wire Act. It is unclear if DraftKings’ wallet server is required to be within WV or if it is a cautionary measure.

“The location of one of the servers was in question during the testing period. I think we have agreement among everybody that that needs to be located in the state of West Virginia in order to make sure that there is not an issue or violation of the federal Wire Act.”

Caution: proceed at your own risk

Myers concluded that both the betting server and wallet server need to reside in WV.

However, Myers admits to some uncertainty around the process:

“I have to err on the side of caution. I don’t want any West Virginia citizen or any employees here to get into trouble. There is not a precedent to go by in the law. There’s not a precedent to go by in creating platforms and these systems that move the data around. We are kind of learning as we go.”

The bottom line is officials want both servers in West Virginia. Once a bet is closed, though, DraftKings can record it and store it where they choose.

DraftKings and its WV partner, Hollywood Casino, are keeping relatively quiet, issuing just one statement since the Lottery’s first comments about the testing:

“We do not have any firm date yet on next steps, including a soft launch or full public launch in West Virginia.”

Myers continues to project timelines, “It could be football season before they get that built. It looks like it’s certainly going to be delayed.”

Players want their online betting back

In the meantime, all that is left for players is to wait.

While players are waiting, West Virginia, once a leader in the US sports betting market is quickly becoming an example of what not to do.

The roll-out of sports betting last fall was also plagued by lengthy delays. The slow launch of WV sportsbooks limited handle and frustrated bettors.

That was followed by the BetLucky fiasco between Delaware North and Miomni.

BetLucky, the first and only online sports betting app to operate in West Virginia, lacked the features of other brands, including DraftKings. Even so, players were able to bet online. At least, until they couldn’t.

Just when online betting was gaining momentum, the app, along with sports betting operations at Wheeling Island Sportsbook and Mardi Gras Casino Sportsbook, abruptly shut down.

It’s been three months since a player could bet online. Now, the state’s handle is once again limited by a lack of options.

DraftKings was supposed to be the answer to the problem. The answer will have to wait, though.

Football season seems like it is a safe bet for online betting to re-emerge. Unfortunately, West Virginia’s history of predicting timelines automatically puts West Virginia sports betting on injured reserve.

In the end, all of this wouldn’t be so disappointing if the Lottery kept quiet about the potential launch in the first place.

There is a silver lining, though. Pennsylvania finally launched its first online sportsbook. WV bettors near the PA border can cross into the Keystone State and place a bet on PlaySugarHouse.com while they wait for online betting to return in their home state.

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Way Yuhl

Way Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger. Way recently left his position as a Business professor at Clark University to write full-time while traveling the world. He holds an MBA in International Business and a BA in Geography. You can learn more about his travels at nomadingabout.com.

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