West Virginia Online Sports Betting Site Launched
It looks like 2019 will be a very good year for West Virginia sports bettors.
West Virginia launched its first online sportsbook Thursday, opening the fourth state to legal internet-based wagering. The Mountain State follows Nevada and New Jersey in a growing list of states that allow bets from eligible players via mobile devices from anywhere within the state borders.
Mississippi allows mobile wagering, but only by players physically within casinos. Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. both expect to have mobile offerings from anywhere within their respective jurisdictions sometime in the coming year.
Entertainment conglomerate Delaware North introduced the betlucky.com mobile app earlier this week. The parent company of Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack as well as Mardi Gras Casino & Resort near Charleston also announced it had opened land-based sportsbooks at both properties. The company had intentionally waited until its online offering went live before kicking off its new terrestrial sportsbooks.
In a press release, Delaware North gaming division vice president Luísa Woods touted the easy and convenient access to online betting provided by the app.
“The platform was designed to be flexible, easy to use and reliable, with innovative features designed specifically to engage and entertain U.S. sports fans. Patrons at the casinos can use the app or the betting tellers in the sportsbooks.”
With the commencement of its mobile market, West Virginia now has one of the more robust sports betting environments in the country. Along with the new sportsbooks at Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras casinos, the state’s three other eligible gaming facilities are all taking bets.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races has taken legal bets since September. The private casino at the Greenbriar Resort in White Sulphur Springs started taking wagers shortly after Hollywood Casino, and Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort kicked off its sportsbook last month.
Now West Virginia residents and visitors will have a plethora of betting options. It has not always easy to reach that point.
West Virginia Market Finally Reaches Potential
West Virginia bolstered its casino infrastructure in recent years, spurring similar developments in neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania. To keep its lead in regional gambling, the West Virginia General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a legal sports betting bill earlier this year. Though a federal ban was still in place at the time, the legislation would allow West Virginia to take a bet as soon as the restriction was removed.
When the Supreme Court overturned the ban in May of this year, West Virginia could have theoretically taken a bet that same day. Instead it would take several more months.
Critics place the delay on Gov. Jim Justice.
The owner of the Greenbriar, and facing a likely veto override, Justice allowed the sports betting bill to come into law without his signature, declining to officially endorse the bill due to what observers considered a conflict of interests.
But as bureaucratic government delays prevented its implementation, critics feared Justice was still hoping to amend the bill.
Officials from major American professional sports leagues heavily lobbied Justice to include what they called an “integrity fee,” or what amounted to a one percent cut of all betting winnings to be reallocated to the leagues, which they said was necessary to protect the sanctity of their competitions. These pitches were overwhelmingly rejected by lawmakers, who saw them as unnecessary for the game’s protection and, more significantly, a threat to the government’s own tax revenue potential.
A series of delays in the regulatory approval process reinforced concerns from legislators and gambling stakeholders. The Greenbriar hosts an annual NFL training camp as well as PGA Tour event, and critics feared Justice would capitulate to the league’s integrity fee requests so it wouldn’t jeopardize his property’s partnerships.
Ultimately, the fears never materialized into anything tangible. The integrity fee was never incorporated into any legislation or regulations and the West Virginia market was allowed to continue, albeit after months of delays, without them.
The maturation of the West Virginia market comes just in time to keep it ahead of its neighbors. Just as it did with its land-based casinos, several Mountain State neighbors are poised to inaugurate mobile sports betting markets of their own.
Regional Jurisdictions Prep Online Offerings
In part as a response to West Virginia’s gambling expansions earlier this decade, neighboring Pennsylvania passed one of the nation’s most sweeping gaming expansion bills in 2017, which included sports betting provisions as well as a mobile market. Though concerns over exorbitant tax rates delayed its implementation for months, the Keystone State is finally ready to commence its market sometime early next year.
Meanwhile Washington D.C., about a two-hour drive from Charles Town, will take its first legal sports bet sometime in the next few months. Without any traditional gaming establishments like casinos or racetracks it too will have mobile offerings.
Additionally, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky and Ohio have all introduced sports betting bills for their respective 2019 legislative sessions. Though it remains to be seen if they will incorporate online offerings, or even pass through their respective statehouses at all, the flurry of activity underscores the momentum for legal sports betting in the region – and the nation as a whole.
With these states among a group of up to two dozen set to take up sports betting bills in the coming months, West Virginia may not have an edge in the gambling expansion race for long. But the commencement of its online market nevertheless gives it a leg up on neighboring jurisdictions and provides the latest high-water mark for online gaming in the U.S.
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