One Year Later: WV Sports Betting And Its Rocky Road Since PASPA Ruling

Posted on May 14, 2019 - Last Updated on May 15, 2019

It’s been one year since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). In that time, West Virginia sports betting has been at the forefront of the nascent betting market.

Not only did the ruling pave the way for sports betting in the Mountain State, but WV has been a regular newsmaker. One of the more recent headlines included the legalization of WV online casinos.

Currently, there are three active WV sportsbooks:

It’s been an exciting year from the court ruling to legal wagering in the Mountain State. Here’s a look back.

What did PASPA actually do?

The law was enacted in 1992 as a way to “define” sports gambling in the U.S.

In essence, however, the law effectively banned sports betting in states outside Nevada. There were a few exceptions beyond the Silver State. Those included state lottery parlay offerings in:

  • Oregon
  • Delaware
  • Montana

The act also exempted pari-mutuel dog and horse racing, as well as jai alai. The legislation also allowed states with casinos in place for the last 10 years one year to enact sports wagering.

The legislation was sponsored by former New Jersey senator and NBA player Bill Bradley. The sports leagues became vocal proponents of the bill, which was ultimately signed by President George H. W. Bush.

Former NBA commissioner David Stern testified to Congress:

“The interstate ramifications of sports betting are a compelling reason for federal legislation.” 

Legislators cited their authority to regulate interstate commerce in creating the legislation.

Legalizing sports betting in WV and the nation

The legislation had the opposite effect, however. Far from curbing sports betting, the enterprise grew as offshore casinos and sportsbooks grew in popularity. PASPA had, in essence, created a growing black market of bookies and sportsbooks.

During that time, more states began legalizing casinos including West Virginia. However, Nevada’s virtual legal sports betting remained a monopoly.

States like New Jersey, which hadn’t enacted legislation in the one-year exception period, saw PASPA as unfair. State officials argued PASPA violated the 10th Amendment by removing states’ abilities to regulate activities not explicitly reserved to the federal government.

Opponents argued the law discriminated against the 46 states not allowed to enact sports betting. New Jersey began challenging the law’s constitutionality in 2009.

New Jersey residents passed a state amendment in 2011 allowing sports wagering. The state approved sports wagering a year later and continued the legal challenge to the Supreme Court.

Few initially gave the state much of a chance in its efforts. But on May 14, 2018, the court struck the law down as unconstitutional in a 6-3 ruling.

West Virginia gets on the sports betting bandwagon

The ruling was earth-shattering for the sports world. In the months that followed, several states enacted sports betting, including:

  • Delaware
  • New Jersey
  • Mississippi

Leagues that had opposed sports betting in any form for decades were suddenly making deals with casinos and bookmakers.

West Virginia became the fourth state to offer sports betting in August 2018. The rollout allowed all five of the WV casinos to open retail sportsbooks and offer statewide online sports betting.

The latter seemed a popular option due to the WV’s rural nature. The first mobile sports betting app to hit the market was BetLucky Sportsbook from Delaware North, the operator of Mardis Gras and Wheeling Island casinos.

The company partnered with Miomni Gaming initially to get the mobile ball rolling. Growth was nice initially despite some shortcomings.

Other properties also entered into partnerships and included:

Some setbacks and shortcomings

Even after BetLucky’s launch in December 2018, there were some shortcomings. Customers complained of some contests not being carried and some missing futures betting.

The app also had closing hours for some reason, which hampered those hoping for 24/7 wagering. Bettors hoping for a Nevada or New Jersey-type wagering experience didn’t quite get it.

However, the app seemed adequately user-friendly and built up a group of bettors as the only game in town.

That changed in March. After a legal entanglement with its partner Miomni, the app was shut down. Miomni didn’t have a license to a critical piece of software that was the intellectual property of European software company Entergaming.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the dispute also brought the shutdown of the two sportsbooks at the Delaware North properties. Those looking to place wagers at Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island were out of luck – and still are.

Delaware North eventually announced it was parting ways and suing its former partner. The company also announced it would be pursuing a new sportsbook partner, but don’t look for something any time soon.

Another wrench in the system occurred in January with a new opinion of the Wire Act from the Justice Department. The department now argues the law applied to more than just sports betting.

Despite challenges and views that the DOJ’s ruling wouldn’t hold up, efforts at online gaming, including sports betting, in WV were hampered.

Expanding the betting market

Despite the Wire Act controversy, West Virginia approved online gaming in March. The state’s online offerings are expected to be the same as those offered in live casinos and include:

  • Slots
  • Poker
  • Blackjack
  • Roulette

The legislation and potential of interstate gaming compacts put WV ahead of the pack when it comes to online gaming.

However, the lack of a mobile sports betting app has been a major frustration for many bettors in the state. The BetLucky closing has led to a significant drop in handle in the intervening months.

There seems to be some hope on the horizon. The lottery commission recently announced five licenses granted to online sports betting operators.

Among those are some well-known companies:

DraftKings seems to have shown the most interest in entering the market in recent months. The company is expected to launch soon, but no date has yet been announced.

Plenty of WV bettors will be happy to see mobile wagering return in time for the NFL season. As regular WV bettor Brian Giompalo told PlayWV.com:

“Thanks for shining a light on the problem here. We want our mobile app back now.”

Sean Chaffin Avatar
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Sean Chaffin

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast, available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, PokerNews.com, HoldemRadio.com, and other platforms.

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