Wire Act Slowing WV Online Sports Betting Growth To A Snail’s Pace

Posted on March 28, 2019

Sports betting in West Virginia now has several hurdles to overcome in order to get the state back to where it wants to be in regards to legal gambling.

After the Mountain State’s only online platform BetLucky Sportsbook was suspended along with its two land-based affiliates, Mardi Gras Casino Sportsbook and Wheeling Island Sportsbook, it appears WV residents will be without a mobile sports betting app for some time.

In a report from WV Metro News, WV Lottery Director John Myers said the US Department of Justice and its revised opinion on the Wire Act is the reason for the delay of complete mobile sports betting implementation within the state.

The DOJ’s new stance now applies the Wire Act to any form of gambling that crosses state lines. This includes online casino gambling, online lottery and of course online sports betting.

Legal sports gambling is only available in states where regulations have already passed. Even so, it’s possible the data and information that travels with online betting could cross over several state lines, therefore making it illegal under said act.

This news couldn’t come at a worse time for WV because of an unrelated issue with the state’s only mobile sports betting app.

Residents have been without online sports betting since March 6. Unfortunately, there isn’t an end in sight.

BetLucky, along with the sportsbooks at the two Delaware North-owned locations are closed due to a contract dispute between the sportsbooks’ operator and a third-party technology provider.

Wire Act opinion causing regulators to pause

Although it’s unclear what the DOJ plans to actually enforce with the revised Wire Act opinion, it has created enough issues in states with hopes for legalized online sports gambling.

Myers said:

“It’s kind of given everybody caution on how to move forward until we can get that resolved. We are doing everything we can to try and work through that. We’ve been working through our national organization to try and get some idea on how the DOJ decision is going to come down.”

The uncertainty that the DOJ has created has such an impact on a state like WV. Instead of rolling out new online platforms like DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook, Myers and the WV residents must do more waiting, all while having no online sports betting option.

Other states like Pennsylvania are in similar predicaments. The Keystone State has also told their potential sportsbook operators to obey the opinion as well.

WV mobile sports betting puts on the brakes

The new Wire Act opinion is certainly causing more speed bumps in the path to legal online betting, however, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue if WV still had mobile wagering.

The state of New Jersey has to deal with the same potential negative fallout from this news. It can’t be as concerned as WV due to the fact that it has so many online sportsbooks available.

The length of time it takes the DOJ to sort this out is completely unknown. NJ will make it through a long delay, but WV is under a lot more pressure.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a sense of urgency but it’s certainly high on our priority list to get done,” Myers said.

Delaware North suspended all sports betting operations just as WV mobile sports betting started gaining real traction. BetLucky pulled in more than $140,000 in revenue in its last full week up and running. It was its best week by 14 percent.

With no mobile option offered, betting on sports has become increasingly difficult for WV residents. Some bettors must now travel across the state to get their action placed at one of three WV sportsbooks:

The timing couldn’t be worse. With no football the last few months, a lot of sports gamblers have been looking forward to March Madness for a while now. There is no denying the popularity of the NCAA tournament and the desire to bet on it.

The lack of betting showed in the figures released by the WV Lottery. For the week ending on March 16, WV sportsbooks accepted their fewest bets since the middle of November. The total handle dropped below the $3 million mark for just the third time in 18 weeks.

Wire Act invading online gambling industry

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading a bipartisan group of 25 attorneys general to show their concern with the latest Wire Act stance.

Morrisey sent a letter to US Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The letter explains how the new legal opinion could affect things outside of sports betting usually handled by the states.

Morrisey wrote:

“The loss of these programs would have devastating consequences for our States. State-run and multi-state lotteries are a consistent source of state revenue, representing many billions of dollars in annual funding used to fund vital state services such as schools and other educational initiatives, services for senior citizens, and infrastructure projects.”

National lotteries such as the Mega Millions and Powerball could be affected.

The letter requested a meeting with both Rosenstein and Barr. Additionally, Morrisey requested an extension of Rosenstein’s 90-day compliance window to voice their opposition to the opinion and seek clarification.

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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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