Setbacks Aside, WV Sportsbooks Contribute To National Conversation

Posted on March 18, 2019 - Last Updated on April 24, 2019

As more states get on the sports betting bandwagon, sportsbooks in West Virginia are part of a growing movement that has seen major gains at the betting windows. Those states now exceed totals from the sports-betting mecca of Nevada.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) recently noted that January wagers in new sports betting states exceeded the amount of sports bets placed in Nevada for the first time.

A new AGA report details how other legalized states have made headway with the American sports bettor. Sports betting outside Nevada accounted for 50.2 percent of all legal wagers for a total of $503.1 million.

Sara Slane, AGA senior vice president of public affairs, commented on the news in a press release.

“For the first time in the history of U.S. gaming, Nevada’s sports betting handle has been eclipsed by the rest of the country. The demand for legal sports betting is abundantly clear, with the majority of legal wagers now being placed in markets that didn’t even exist a year ago. What’s more, this strong consumer appetite for legal sports betting is matched by action from state legislatures and sovereign tribal nations. Two thirds of jurisdictions have now taken steps to legalize sports betting, marking an unprecedented amount of growth for this new sector in just ten months.”

Sports betting nearing $1 billion in wagers

Since the Supreme Court overturned the virtual federal ban on sports betting outside Nevada last May 2018, six other states have allowed some form of sports betting. Several others have also proposed legislation or have shown signs of moving in that direction.

Nevada brought in $497.5 million in total wagered in January, while New Jersey had the largest handle of the others with $385.3 million. The total wagered among all states for January was just shy of $1 billion, at $998.8 million.

West Virginia sports betting finished sixth in handle for the month with $17.8 million. Sure, its numbers are small compared to New Jersey’s. However, being on the forefront of the national sports betting movement gives West Virginia a seat at the table.

Here’s a look at totals from all states:

  • Nevada – $497.5 million
  • New Jersey – $385.3 million
  • Mississippi – $35.2 million
  • Pennsylvania – $32.0 million
  • Rhode Island – $19.1 million
  • West Virginia – $17.8 million
  • Delaware – $11.9 million

This month, March Madness offers an interesting dynamic for bettors in the state, but it’s definitely not a given based on some inconsistencies with the amount wagered each month so far.

Sporting Setback

Certainly, there is plenty of room for growth in the West Virginia sports betting market. As of now, the only places to wager are at one of the state’s five casinos:

While mobile wagering is legal, so far only BetLucky Sportsbook has gone online in the state.

However, all of that changed recently when the app, as well as live sports betting at the Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras casinos, ceased taking sports bets. Both properties are operated by Delaware North, and BetLucky is a partnership between Delaware North and Miomni Gaming.

The company tried to assure its customers that the closure is temporary. However, as the country heads into March Madness mania, every day that passes without sports betting at its books makes it seem less likely the resolution will be a quick one. And, even if they come back online soon, it may be difficult to earn back customer trust.

A quick look at the AGA state totals reveals some of the struggles in the market so far. Rhode Island, which has about a third less population than West Virginia, took in $1.3 million more in wagers than the Mountain State – and only has legalized sports betting at two casinos.

Room for Growth

Despite the Delaware North setback, the AGA report shows the possibilities in West Virginia. Other states have shown major monthly strides in wagering since 2018.

Mobile sports betting in West Virginia, as well as the possibility of additional legalized online gaming, offer a major opportunity for growth in the West Virginia gambling market.

So far BetLucky app wagering has been minuscule compared to the overall wagering in the state. However, with DraftKings set to enter the market soon, plus FanDuel, and William Hill operating live sportsbooks there, additional mobile offerings seem like a safe bet.

Simply adding more mobile opportunities should attract more bettors.

The West Virginia House and Senate also recently passed a bill allowing West Virginia casinos to offer legalized online poker and other online casino games.

Should Republican Gov. Jim Justice sign the bill, the door will be open for more online wagering in the state. More online betting options spells good news for WV sports betting. Surely, legalized online casino gambling will have a spillover effect on mobile sports betting.

West Virginia has been at the forefront of the U.S. sports betting wave. It will interesting to see how that is parlayed in live sportsbooks and online sports betting in the coming months.

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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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