The state of West Virginia has seen a rise in the number of casinos that accept sports wagers, despite hurdles remaining in the way for state casinos.
The Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack was one of the latest West Virginia casinos to begin sports betting operations. The Mountaineer Racetrack and Gaming Center in North Cumberland is also set to begin accepting sports wagers at their William Hill Sportsbook.
It’s a confidence boost for a West Virginia market that doesn’t have an easy entry. The hope is that the process will begin to streamline itself as more sportsbooks enter the market.
Sports betting in West Virginia was technically legalized before the federal ban was removed by the Supreme Court. The West Virginia legislature had sports betting ready to go the moment the Supreme Court made the decision to strike down the federal ban, but there were four additional months of waiting before the first bet was taken.
The state expanded their general casino games in four public gaming facilities, as well as one private casino at Greenbriar Resort, which led to stronger calls to legalize sports betting. The state managed to successfully pass a bill that would legalize sports betting if the federal ban was removed, but the bill went unsigned by Gov. Jim Justice.
The holdup was a supposed conflict of interest by Justice because of family ties to Greenbriar. Lawmakers have had to deny that the slowdown in approving more widespread gambling laws because of the possible diminishing returns to their own revenue streams. Greenbriar specifically was a concern because of it’s status of hosting PGA Tour events and training camp of the Houston Texans NFL team.
However, the bill became law due to the fact that a veto from Justice would have simple been met with an overruling vote by the West Virginia legislature. That doesn’t mean that implementing the law was easy, as regulations and other required precedents were delayed over and over again.
The State lottery board approved rules that would have allowed sports betting to begin in the summer, but was stalled by the governor’s office. The rules were only approved days before a cutoff that would have delayed sports betting for another half year.
There was an additional scare that saw the Justice administration began to talk about trying to implement so-called “integrity fees,” extra fees tacked onto sports betting wagers that go to the local government. How exactly it would ensure integrity is still unclear, but when it came time to implement the laws of sports betting in West Virginia, integrity fees were nowhere to be found.
Despite the delays, interjections, and other problems from the governor’s office, sports betting finally came to West Virginia. Hollywood Casino in Charles Town was the first to begin accepting sports wagers in West Virginia, and the momentum has begun to snowball from there.
West Virginia is on the way to becoming the third state to legalize online sports betting with New Jersey and Nevada. In addition to filling the casinos with sports bettors who might take advantage of the other casino offerings, online sports betting could further bolster casino profits, and thus grow gambling as a whole across the state.