West Virginia sports betting made plenty of news in recent weeks. That includes the closing of two live sportsbooks and the legalization of online gaming. The state’s sole mobile wagering option then went away completely. What’s it like on the ground with this new expansion of sports betting in the state?
Certainly, mobile bettors have had some real setbacks. PlayWV.com spoke with a couple of Mountain State sports bettors about how things were going and where they think sports betting apps are headed.
WV has mobile sports betting blues
Mark Paternostro is frustrated. The 56-year-old from Morgantown is a professor in the school of medicine at West Virginia University. A recreational bettor hoping to build a bankroll, he wagers every weekend during football season – NCAA and NFL.
Mobile wagering has become popular in other states. Estimates in New Jersey put the total around 80 percent of overall handle now. Similar estimates may have seemed a possibility in West Virginia. But the BetLucky app left Paternostro questioning the service even from the beginning.
“I thought this was a great idea, given the rural nature of the state, but it’s been a bit of a bust, not only with the recent shutdown. I had troubles with the app and logging into the system.”
Limited sports betting options in WV
With a smaller population, mobile betting should be a good option. So far others haven’t entered the market, although we are tracking online gambling launch dates in the state. DraftKings Sportsbook, however, is awaiting regulatory to open for business.
Like Paternostro, others expressed frustration with BetLucky. The site didn’t allow 24-hour wagering, was closed some hours and didn’t offer some betting options. The shutdown proved costly.
“The BetLucky app didn’t allow for teasers which I like to bet and limited sports with no women’s basketball,” he says. “I’m hoping DraftKings might expand online options.”
Not getting all his bets in, however, was Paternostro’s major frustration.
“I can specifically remember trying to place a decent-sized paraly on the Big 10 championship game and couldn’t get into the system through the app. I then sat there and watched my potential bet win – $300 to make $750. That happened on more than one occasion.”
Serious sports bettor sidelined
Xavier Jefferson is just the kind of customer a mobile sportsbook would love to have. The 26-year-old from Fairmont, in the north-central part of the state, placed 500 bets on BetLucky before the shutdown.
His bets ranged from $1 to $100 with $250 bet throughout the NFL playoffs and on the Super Bowl. Smaller bets continued on college basketball, and Jefferson wagered as many as 20 wagers daily. He still holds a $25 futures bet with BetLucky on the New England Patriots to win the 2020 Super Bowl.
Jefferson and Paternostro’s stories show the potential mobile sports betting may have in the rural state. They also show the missed opportunities by BetLucky partner Delaware North, which operates Wheeling Island Sportsbook and Mardi Gras Sportsbook. The company is now seeking a new mobile sportsbook partner and will need to regain some trust with bettors.
Jefferson, who works as a salesman in his day job and is a WVU graduate, lives closest to Mountaineer Sportsbook. That really isn’t a viable betting option for him and hopes something will happen soon:
“I’m screwed with no mobile app. All the sportsbooks are placed on the state lines with zero centralized casinos. The nearest open sportsbook to me is Mountaineer Casino in Chester, which is a round trip over four hours away.
“I’m not driving that far to bet, so I haven’t placed a bet since BetLucky shut down weeks ago. I’m praying DraftKings, FanDuel, or William Hill open up a mobile app soon because all three currently have open brick and mortar sportsbooks in West Virginia.”
Can you hear me now?
Despite recent news, expanded sports betting and online gaming doesn’t seem to be a major topic of debate. Recent searches on some of the state’s major newspaper didn’t yield many results.
Paternostro has noticed this himself and believes the industry could do more to get the word out.
“I’m into it so I look for information, but not sure the sportsbooks have done a good job advertising,” he says. “I would have expected commercials like the West Virginia Lottery. I think they are not getting the info out to casual fans who might decide to bet.”
More operators might shake up the industry, educating consumers with additional marketing as well as news and analysis. That’s certainly on hold for now.
The lack of a mobile option may even have had a negative effect. Jefferson noticed more interest among his friends betting initially. But many returned to underground options after the BetLucky quarantine.
“Everybody in my circle was betting on NFL and college football. I have multiple friends in Fairmont who went back to their bookies after the BetLucky app shut down because we have zero legal options here.”
Jefferson and Paternostro both believe that the situation could change as more companies get on board. College betting in WV could be huge, so hopefully, there will be an online option by then. In the meantime, the industry seems to be in a bit of a standstill – mobile and live wagering.
“I would have gone to Wheeling Island for March Madness,” Jefferson says, “but they got shut down so I never got to go.”
Online gaming and the future
With online casinos in West Virginia on the horizon, it’s a question whether it will bring more players to the betting windows. The new law allows for casino games similar to those played in a casino, such as:
“I think this might get others into the sports betting,” Paternostro says. “It will be fun to be able to play some table games online.”
On the other hand, Jefferson isn’t interested in casino games or online poker and hasn’t heard much about the topic.
Both bettors are in agreement on one thing. They hope the mobile sports situation gets cleared up soon. Major League Baseball season is now underway, and the NBA and NHL playoffs start soon. There are a lot of missed opportunities to connect with wagerers. Jefferson’s pleas speak for many:
“DraftKings, FanDuel, William Hill – please come help us out in North Central West Virginia with a mobile app. We have zero brick and mortar casinos and no legal mobile apps to bet on.”