Online sports betting went live this week in West Virginia – and it couldn’t come at a better time.
With WVU, Marshall, and NFL football approaching, it’s been a circuitous route to get to this point.
A few days ahead of celebrating the one-year anniversary of sports betting in West Virginia, bettors finally have a true mobile and online option with DraftKings Sportsbook WV and FanDuel Sportsbook WV.
Here’s a look back at the WV sports betting market over the past year.
Legalization and WV sportsbooks go live
WV legalized sports betting on March 10, 2018. That came even before the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
Delaware and New Jersey got the ball rolling quickly as the first states to offer legal sports betting outside of Nevada. New Jersey quickly saw major growth in mobile and online wagering. In fact, it just outperformed Nevada for the second month.
In WV, a slow rollout frustrated some of the law’s backers and sports bettors as well. The state’s first retail sportsbook officially went live on Sept. 1 at the Hollywood Casino Sportsbook. Since opening, Hollywood Casino has dominated the market most likely due to its proximity to major metropolitan areas like:
- Washington, D.C.
FanDuel Sportsbook at The Greenbrier followed suit opening its betting windows on Sept. 13. Mountaineer Sportsbook finally launched its William Hill Sportsbook on Nov. 21, missing much of the football season.
Online sports betting delayed, BetLucky finally launches
While the launch of retail sports betting was big, online sports betting offered an even bigger opportunity. As a rural state, many bettors still live far away from the state’s five casinos.
States like New Jersey and Nevada now see 80-85% of sports betting revenue from online or mobile wagering. Experts considered that would be the case in WV also.
Despite some early anticipation, mobile sports betting apps were delayed in WV for whatever reason.
In October, Delaware North announced that it was partnering with gaming company Miomni for its sports betting offerings. Miomni was to provide retail and mobile wagering at the two WV casinos it operates:
That same month, the state had taken in $9.5 million in wagers by the week ending Oct. 13 with only three live sportsbooks open.
Revenue continued to grow in spite of a less than ideal situation in the market. Finally, on Dec. 27, the Delaware North and Miomni partnership came to fruition.
Along with retail sportsbooks at Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras, the BetLucky app launched. Sports betting seemed to finally have arrived in a big way with mobile betting available across the state.
March Madness includes BetLucky app closing
BetLucky seemed to have given the WV sports market a bit of adrenaline. By February overall handle topped $60 million. Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras were seeing more than 70% of their sports betting revenue coming from mobile wagering.
But there were some issues. Strangely, the app actually had certain hours it didn’t operate. That flew in the face of what a mobile option should provide.
Some bettors also complained that not all games or futures wagers were available. A marketing effort to educate the market also seemed to be lacking.
Despite some concerns, the state at least had an option with a promise for more to come from:
- William Hill
Things seemed to be aligning for bettors and lawmakers with the proposition of legalizing online gambling in February.
With March Madness approaching, the market seemed to finally be moving in the right direction, however slowly.
Then on March 7, all wagering at the BetLucky live sportsbooks and the app came to a stop. The suspension came from a disagreement between Miomni and a European software company.
A Delaware North spokesman told Legal Sports Report:
“We have been informed by Miomni Gaming, our sports wagering platform provider in West Virginia, that they have encountered a contract dispute with a third-party technology supplier. This has resulted in the interruption of the Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras sports-betting operations as well as the BetLucky.com mobile app from accepting new sports wagers. We apologize for this interruption in service.”
The retail sportsbooks remain closed and the BetLucky app is no more. Delaware North has sued Miomni, which is also battling in court with the European software company.
The state has been stuck without two retail sportsbooks and a mobile platform for over five months.
Sports betting handle goes into free fall, Lottery responds to criticism
By March, handle had dipped under $3 million for the first time since November. Sports betting seemed a bit of an afterthought for many in the state.
Bettors received some good news, however, when online gambling became legal on March 27. There seemed to be some momentum and maybe mobile wagering would now accelerate.
In June, WV Lottery Director John Myers said the federal Wire Act has caused mobile betting to be delayed. Rumors of DraftKings imminent launch were just a mirage and the market remained stuck in quicksand.
“There is no holdup from the state side. The lottery has told them how a mobile system needs to be set up since 2018. Some of our management services providers initially provided a system that did not meet those requirements and the lottery denied approval of those based on the requirements of the Federal Wire Act.
“While the decision to enforce these requirements has not been popular with everyone, the ultimate goal is to make sure that lottery employees, the management services providers [MSPs], and the citizens who place a wager are protected.”
Myers said regulators were simply following state law and had consulted the attorney general’s office regarding the Wire Act. He also said he believed mobile betting would be back by football season.
Back in business
After months of waiting, bettors in the Mountain State were rewarded for their patience, when DraftKings and FanDuel brought their popular sports betting apps to West Virginia within two days of each of other.
Bettors in the state could finally place a bet online less than a week before WVU and Marshall kick off the football season. No doubt many in the state will be ready to park in front of the TV this weekend with a mobile device in hand.
The situation in WV still isn’t perfect. The two Delaware North properties’ sportsbooks still remain closed. Myers said the company is working at changing that.
The state of sports betting, however, has improved greatly. Many in the state will be happy with that.
WV Sports Betting Timeline
- March – WV officially legalizes sports betting.
- May – Supreme Court overturns Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASP).
- September – First WV retail sportsbook goes live at the Hollywood Casino on Sept. 1. The FanDuel Sportsbook at Greenbrier opens on Sept. 13.
- October – Hollywood signals a William Hill launch soon, but that doesn’t come to fruition. Delaware North (operator of Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island) announces a partnership with Miomni for retail one mobile betting. Revenue is growing in the state.
- November – The Mountaineer finally launches its William Hill Sportsbook on Nov. 21, the third retail book in the state.
- December – Delaware North opens sportsbook at Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras and launches the BetLucky mobile betting app.
- February – Overall handle since inception tops $60 million. Lawmakers propose legalizing online gambling.
- March – All wagering at the BetLucky live sportsbooks and app is suspended. A legal dispute between the two companies ensues. The state handle dips under $3 million for the first time since November. Good news – online gaming becomes legal.
- April – Delaware North and Miomni officially dissolve their partnership.
- August – Criticism of WV Lottery grows as football season approaches. Lottery Director John Myers says the holdup has not been in his office. He says mobile betting should go live before football season.
- Aug. 26 – Mobile and online sports betting finally returns when FanDuel Sportsbook goes live. DraftKings Sportsbook launched on Aug. 28 to double the fun.