On Wednesday, the West Virginia Lottery approved five one-year licenses in its first step at bringing online sports betting back the Mountain State.
The approved companies are:
WV mobile sports betting preparing for its return
Additionally, FanDuel and William Hill are already active powering retail West Virginia sportsbooks for:
- FanDuel Sportsbook at The Greenbrier
- William Hill Sportsbook at Mountaineer Casino
- Hollywood Casino Sportsbook powered by William Hill
All three companies have experience in other markets, most notably New Jersey, and of course, Nevada for William Hill. As such, launching online sports betting in West Virginia should go rather smoothly.
GeoComply and IGT are secondary providers handling back end technology solutions. IGT provides backend technical support such as processing sports bets online.
GeoComply provides the software to ensure players are within state lines when placing a bet, a compliance requirement. According to a press release on GeoComly’s website, the company “received full approval as a sports wagering supplier in West Virginia for its geolocation compliance solution.”
These five companies have been working together with the WV Lottery to launch mobile sports betting apps.
West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers spoke to WV Metro News about the Lottery’s busy day.
“We’ve been working on the platform, how it’s set up, where its servers are located, making sure they are complying with the Wire Act. We’ve made a lot of progress there in the last few weeks. Hopefully, it won’t be as long as it has.”
WV online sports betting taking its time
Myers indicated online sports betting will likely be on hold until there is more clarity around the Department of Justice’s reinterpretation of the Wire Act.
“They’re all approved to have them. It’s basically a decision for their corporate structures,” Myers said to Charleston Gazette-Mail about the decision to launch mobile sports betting.
The Lottery has been moving cautiously towards any new online sports betting approvals because of the recently-revised Wire Act opinion. Myers said:
“There’s been some hesitancy to jump into it (mobile betting apps) but hopefully when we get a decision (on the new Wire Act interpretation) in the next few weeks they will feel more comfortable in going forward.”
West Virginia sports betting law allows mobile sports betting as long as a bettor is 21 years of age and physically located within the state.
There is concern among several states that the new opinion would result in casinos violating the Wire Act if data travels through servers in other states. Besides sports betting it could also impact online casino gambling and multi-state lottery games, including:
- Mega Millions
New Hampshire went to court on the subject and the tone of the hearing seemed to favor the state. U.S. District Judge Paul Barbadoro has yet to rule on whether the newly-revised opinion is an overreach, as the WV Attorney General contends.
What about Delaware North?
After obtaining documents about the reasons behind the closure, it became clear that trouble was brewing before the shutdown. Unfortunately, it may be a long time before Deleware North resumes online sports wagering at its properties:
- Mardi Gras Sportsbook
- Wheeling Island Sportsbook
Myers believes that Delaware North will need to disassociate itself from former partner Miomni. In the meantime, Delaware North is looking for a new partner to resume online operations. He said as much to WV News:
“I think one of the concerns is whether they have to completely separate from Miomni before they can begin a new relationship. That’s to be determined, and their legal staff have to make that determination. It’s certainly something that we have to consider as we’re setting expectations.”
Since Delaware North filed a lawsuit against Miomni and its CEO, Michael Venner, only last week, the process is only at the beginning stages.
According to the civil suit Delaware North was not provided with information by either Miomni or Venner that Miomni was not the owner the intellectual properties needed to operate the platform.
The suit goes on to say that it was only after the platform was shut down by Miomni’s technology supplier, Entergaming, that Delaware North found out about the contract dispute between Miomni and Entergaming.
Delaware North is sure to offer sports betting at its West Virginia casinos after it gets out of its mess. However, BetLucky Sportsbook, which supplied online sports betting to both properties will likely not return to the Mountain State.
The impact of online sports wagering
Now that the BetLucky mobile app is offline, other casino games may be taking up the slack. According to Myers, video lottery machines are seeing an increase in revenue at the casinos. He said that bettors coming to the sportsbooks might be stopping by slot machine on the way in or out.
“Is that contributing to some of the better play we’re seeing out the casinos this year? It may be a positive on that side too because we have the retail (sports betting).”
Sports betting is a relatively small percentage of the total gambling revenue for the West Virginia Lottery. In March the Lottery brought in more than $1.96 million. Only about ten percent was from sports betting. Myers expects online sports betting to have an impact.
“Part of what we were hoping to see if the impact the mobile app would have and that’s kind of been taken out of the equation now and we’re not able to see that. Although the expectation was it would have an impact.”
During the five days online sports wagering was available in March, Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras took in a little more than $81,000 from the mobile app.
Clearly, mobile online sports wagering has had an impact even in its short time and it will do so again after it returns. After all, residents want online sports betting options. Thankfully, it looks like West Virginia mobile sports betting is close to getting back online.