West Virginia officially became the fifth US state to offer legal sports betting in August 2018. But soon the Mountain State will have competition for the region’s gambling dollars.
West Virginia sports betting officially launched on Sept. 1. The law allows sports betting at the state’s five existing gambling facilities and on mobile devices.
While it’s always nice to be first, neighboring states Washington, DC, Kentucky and Ohio will either be passing or discussing sports betting bills in the next year. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania legalized sports betting in 2017 and will launch later this year.
Threats from Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is the biggest immediate threat to West Virginia. They already have a sports betting law on the books. The law permits wagering on both professional and collegiate events. Bets can be placed in person, online or on a mobile device.
The only issue for Pennsylvania is nobody is offering sports betting in the state as of yet, pending final regulations and licensing. There is no such thing as a legal sportsbook in Pennsylvania at the moment. That is expected to change quickly. Casinos are permitted to use a temporary betting facility for up to 18 months while they construct a more permanent sportsbook.
In the future, you will be able to bet on sports anywhere within the borders of Pennsylvania. The law permits wagering “by any system or method,” including in person, on the internet and mobile. Sports betting is expected to launch in Pennsylvania by the end of the year.
As for mobile bettors, their location will be verified via IP address and/or mobile geolocation. This ensures they’re inside the state’s borders when wagering. Mobile wagering will be available shortly after the sports betting licenses are granted, likely in early 2019.
More states ahead of the game
Washington, DC could be next in line after Pennsylvania to offer sports betting. The hope is sports betting in the nation’s capital could become a reality by spring of 2019. The Committee of Finance and Revenue listened to testimony at a hearing on Oct. 17 from several gambling stakeholders. These included a representative from MGM Resorts International, NBA, FanDuel and DraftKings.
Beth Bresnahan, executive director of the lottery, said it would take four to six months to start sports betting once a law is in place. If everything goes as planned in Washington, DC, a bill could be on the mayor’s desk by Thanksgiving.
Any bill signed by the mayor must then go to Congress for a 30-day review, making late-2018/early-2019 a realistic goal for Washington, DC to launch sports betting.
Kentucky and Ohio are a little further away from a sports betting bill but the discussion is underway in both states. Kentucky lawmakers held a hearing on Oct. 12 where testimony from several gaming stakeholders was given on how to successfully introduce sports betting into the state. The hearing showed a number of lawmakers are on board with introducing regulated sports betting in 2019.
Senator Julian Carroll and Representative Al Gentry expressed strong support for bringing sports betting to Kentucky. Carroll said that he was supportive of sports betting at racetracks, lottery locations, and limited kiosks around the state.
In Ohio, lawmakers are taking a more leisurely approach to sports betting. Bipartisan placeholder bills were introduced in each chamber in late July. The legislation is 16 words long stating only, “It is the intent of the General Assembly to develop and enact legislation legalizing sports wagering.”
One holdup in Ohio is the debate about how to legalize sports betting in the state. A month after the bill was filed, Senate president Larry Obhof suggested that it could take a constitutional amendment rather than a new law to legalize sports betting. Out of the states neighboring West Virginia, Ohio is the furthest away from legalizing sports betting. However, the conversation has started and will go into 2019.
West Virginia is currently the only state in the region making money from sports betting. Of course, competition is coming soon. We’ll have to see how launching first benefits West Virginia in the race to attract the area’s gambling dollars.