Two More West Virginia Casinos Set Sports Betting Plans

Two More West Virginia Casinos Set Sports Betting Plans

Another pair of West Virginia casinos are poised to expand their sports betting offerings.

Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort took its inaugural sports bet last week, West Virginia Metro News reports. Located in the northern panhandle along the Ohio border, Mountaineer Casino is the third facility in the state to take a legal sports wager.

In September, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races took the state’s first wager. The Greenbriar in White Sulphur Springs, which has a private casino accessible to guests, was the second facility to take bets.

Meanwhile, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack earlier this month announced it would delay sports betting until it finalized its mobile app, WTOV reported. The facility intends to be the first in the state to offer online bets, possibly before the end of the year.

Once launched, West Virginia is positioned to be the third state with legal online, mobile-based wagering outside of casino properties, following only Nevada and New Jersey.

Mardi Gras Casino near Charleston, the fifth and final facility eligible to take bets in West Virginia, also intends to take sports bets in the near future.

West Virginia Expansion Arrives After Delay

Though West Virginia was one of the most aggressive sports betting legalization adaptors, taking wagers has not always been a straightforward process in the Mountain State.

West Virginia lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a sports betting legalization bill earlier this year, doing so even before the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban. Gov. Jim Justice, in part due to his family’s ownership of the Greenbriar, allowed the bill to pass into law without his signature, ostensibly to avoid any conflicts of interests.

When the Court announced it had struck down the ban in May, the state could have theoretically taken a bet that same day. Instead, it would take nearly four months for West Virginia to do so. In the meantime, Delaware, New Jersey and Mississippi all took legal bets.

Critics say Justice is responsible for the delay.

Officials from major professional sports leagues heavily lobbied Justice to include what they called “integrity fees,” or a portion of all revenue to be reallocated back to the leagues. The Greenbriar hosts an NFL training camp as well as an annual PGA Tour event, which some lawmakers and gambling officials said Justice feared would be jeopardized if he didn’t give in to their requests.

Regardless the motivation, government organizations were responsible for much of the delay. After months of regulatory review, Mountaineer Casino, Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras Casino were positioned to take sports bets as early as September. Unexpectedly, that was further delayed by regulators for several more months.

That led stakeholders to fear Justice would derail all sports betting in an effort to shoehorn integrity fees into winnings, which was decried by legislators as well as the casinos who saw it a threat to government coffers and possible profits.

Those fears have subsided with the developments this month, but the long struggle remains fresh in the state’s gambling community. Still, West Virginia casinos, most of which were designed to attract out-of-state visitors, have a head start on much of the region.

Pennsylvania, Ohio Look to Match West Virginia

Strategically located just miles from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, facilities like Wheeling Island and Mountaineer Casino have long positioned themselves to draw visitors, and dollars, from neighboring states. Sports betting expansion was intended to offer another draw unavailable in those jurisdictions.

That unique offering will not stay that way for long.

After a delay that eclipsed even the quagmire in West Virginia, Pennsylvania finally took its first legal sports bets earlier this month – 13 months after it was technically legalized. Starting near Harrisburg in the central portion of the state, facilities in both eastern and western Pennsylvania are expected to do the same.

Those new offerings, particularly those around Pittsburgh in the western portion of the commonwealth, pose a direct threat to West Virginia.

Ohio, which will take up a sports betting bill next year, will do the same.

Mobile offerings, like the one undertaken by Wheeling Island, will offer a new competitive edge, as it will allow anyone in the state boundaries to place a wager from a smartphone, tablet or laptop. But that too will lose its edge as Pennsylvania is expected to offer the a similar array of mobile offerings early next year.

In the meantime, West Virginia still has an edge in gambling. Though it may have taken longer than stakeholders had hoped for, the Mountain State is continuing to advance new gambling offerings that keep its place in the rapidly expanding U.S. sports betting market.