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West Virginia online casinos are now legal. But when will they launch?
On March 28, West Virginia became the fifth state to legalize online gambling.
Early projections indicate the West Virginia online casino and poker market will generate around $11 million in gross gaming revenue in Year 1. That number will rise as the market matures, growing to around $30 million by Year 5.
That said, when online gambling websites will go live, and what sites will be available is still an unknown. But there are some breadcrumbs to follow.
According to WV Metro News, West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers is targeting a February 2021 launch of online casino gambling.
That would be a span of 22 months from law to launch.
Del. Shawn Fluharty is hoping for a faster rollout in order to capture revenue as quickly as possible. In an interview with PlayWV.com Fluharty speculated that a 2019 launch isn’t out of the question. “I fully expect it to be up and running and hopefully we don’t have the issues with it that we did with sports betting,” he said.
That would be an aggressive law to launch timeline, something only a single state, New Jersey, has managed to accomplish. (Pennsylvania online casinos finally have a green light to go live this summer.)
The West Virginia sports betting “issues” referenced by Fluharty offers an explanation for the lottery director’s hesitance to rush online casinos to market.
A dispute between sportsbook supplier Miomni and one of its vendors caused two of the states retail sportsbooks and its only online sports betting app to cease operations in early March. The matter remains unresolved, and resulted the dissolution of the partnership between casino operator Delaware North and Miomni.
As such, the state’s experience with online sports betting is something of a double-edged sword.
Regulators will already be familiar with the structural workings of payment processing, player identification checks, and geolocation technology. And many of those systems are already in place.
That said, the vendor dispute that forced West Virginia’s single online sports betting app offline will be fresh in regulators mind. The lottery will likely want more assurances that a similar vendor-operator disagreement won’t happen on the online casino/poker side. Those concerns could cause the state to take a more cautious approach when it rolls out online gambling.
The Mountain State has a robust gambling industry that’s regulated by the state lottery.
West Virginia boasts five racinos (a combination racetrack and casino):
The racinos operate all casino gaming in the state, including sports betting — retail and online.
Racinos will also be the sole operators of online casino and poker. The state made five online gambling licenses available, one for each racino.
The existing racino-sports betting partnerships offer some clues to what online casino providers we expect to see in West Virginia.
FanDuel and DraftKings launched online casino sites in conjunction with their online sportsbooks in New Jersey to great effect (here and here). Both are expected to implement a similar model in West Virginia.
The other active sportsbook in the state is also an online casino operator. William Hill hasn’t unveiled its online casino product in New Jersey, but the company has plenty of experience in European markets, and is expected to bring that knowledge to the US market at some point.
After terminating its deal with Miomni, Delaware North finds itself in an interesting position. The company’s search for a new sports betting partner will now include online gambling, which should attract a lot more companies. Delaware North is likely to settle on a full-service partner that can handle all three online verticals.
One company that would fit the bill is The Stars Group.
A partnership with Delaware North would give TSG access to a third online casino/poker market (TSG is active in New Jersey and partnered with Mount Airy and El Dorado Resorts in Pennsylvania) and expand its sports betting footprint in the US.