West Virginia sports betting was continually making strides until late last week when the unexpected happened.
Seemingly out of nowhere, both Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras Casino suspended their sports-betting operations effective immediately.
This unfortunate news comes because of a contract dispute between the casinos’ software provider, Miomni Gaming, and a third-party technology supplier.
The worst part of this news is that these two casinos operate the only online sportsbook in the state, BetLucky Sportsbook. Of course, the online sports betting suspension means WV residents are now without a mobile sports betting option.
Delaware North, the owner of both WV sportsbooks, expects the closure to be temporary. Hopefully, that proves to be the case as mobile wagering within the state was just starting to gain traction.
In fact, the BetLucky app just helped generate the highest mobile sports betting revenue WV has seen to date for the week ending March 2. It pulled in more than $140,000, the most it’s made in the 10 weeks since its launch.
With that being said, let’s examine the status of mobile betting in WV and how it stacks up against the online market in New Jersey after two months.
WV online sports betting launches
Mobile betting in WV began in December 2018 when the BetLucky App was released.
For revenue, BetLucky Sportsbook pulled in $204,587 in its first full month of January 2019. Let’s compare that to New Jersey, the state everyone is watching as it navigates the launch of sports betting post-PAPSA.
Mobile betting in NJ began in August with DraftKings Sportsbook. It had the market to itself for most of the month. BetMGM online sportsbook came online during the last week.
The three NJ sportsbooks totaled $3,123,281 in revenue in August 2018.
Of course, there isn’t much comparison in the revenue figures at all. However, there are several explanations for such a drastic difference:
- BetLucky lacks name recognition
- Population difference
- Marketing efforts
WV sports betting off to a slow start
To begin with, the BetLucky app is fairly unknown. Both of its land-based affiliates are new casinos as well, so not too many people are familiar with their brand.
On the flip side, DraftKings is one of the leaders in online gaming with its Daily Fantasy leagues and now with its NJ sportsbook and casino presence. BetMGM and SugarHouse names are also household names for NJ bettors.
Even though it’s the only sportsbook offered, some West Virginians may have been hesitant to deposit money with a relatively unknown app.
Another key component comes down to simple math. There are a lot more people in NJ than WV. According to the 2017 Census, WV has just over 1.8 million residents. On the other hand, the Garden State has more than 9 million.
Even with the population difference, there is still a huge discrepancy in the revenue difference which is evident in the lagging mobile revenue figures. In the end, it probably comes down to customer acquisition efforts.
NJ sportsbooks put forth aggressive marketing campaigns that included new-customer bonuses, event-specific promotions, and affiliate partnerships to drive growth. Much of that was missing in the WV market. It is not a far stretch to imagine a serious marketing effort reaping rewards in the Mountain State.
WV sports betting chugs along
In BetLucky’s second full month, it took in $254,945 in revenue. This is a little over $50,000 more than month one. That’s around a 25 percent increase. Now normally, a 25 percent month-over-month increase is welcome news. When comparing WV with NJ, however, it is hard not to feel a little disappointed.
To be fair, five additional online sportsbooks opened in NJ during its second month. West Virginia sports betting still had just one.
These eight mobile NJ sportsbooks combined to generate $12,567,785 in September 2018. It represents an incredible 302 percent jump up from NJ’s opening month.
Granted, WV mobile sports betting began outpacing retail revenue for the sportsbooks which illustrates the potential for mobile sports betting in the state.
It’s also true that WV will never be able to compete with NJ, but it does show that the state is not quite living up to its potential.
What is West Virginia sports betting to do?
If one thing is certain when comparing WV and NJ’s first two months of online sports gambling, it’s that more options draw more sports bettors which make more sports bets.
By having actual competition between multiple books within the same market, customers are able to reap the benefits of each book trying to earn more business.
There’s no way NJ would have been able to grow that much between its first two months if it didn’t add several online options for its residents. By having multiple books available, gamblers can pick which ones they enjoy more and aren’t forced into something.
Another key factor is having options with recognizable brand names like Caesars and FanDuel. Both joined NJ sports betting during its second month. West Virginia is looking forward to welcoming DraftKings, FanDuel and William Hill to the online sports betting landscape in the future.
Maybe when some well-known names with the experience of launching in a nascent market come to town, we’ll see some concentrated customer acquisition efforts. Sportsbooks will have to enhance their sign-up bonus offers and increase the number of promotions they’re offering in order to stay relevant and compete with everyone else.
WV sports betting ready for competition
With just the one option available during the first two months (and, at this moment, zero) in WV, both the residents and state are missing out. If there are more sportsbooks with quality offers, more people in the Mountain State might be inclined to join and take full advantage of free money.
Perhaps with March Madness around the corner and BetLucky sidelined, the other casinos will push to get their mobile-betting platforms approved.
Even though there are just five land-based WV casinos, each is allowed to license up to three online sports betting platforms for their customers. That means there could be a total of 13 more sportsbooks available to residents in the Mountain State.
It’s been reported that DraftKings, FanDuel and William Hill will eventually launch sportsbooks in the state as well.