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West Virginia is the smallest of the full-featured US online gambling markets. As a result, its residents have the fewest options to pick from. That number is increasing, however.
In fact, there was a time when DraftKings Casino was the only game in town. Its monopoly only lasted about two weeks before FanDuel Casino arrived on the scene. Nonetheless, this pattern of companies trickling in one at a time has proven to be a persistent feature of the market.
As of a month ago, there were four brands in the market: those original two plus BetMGM and BetRivers. Now, West Virginians have a fifth option in Caesars Online Casino, and will soon get a sixth with the arrival of WynnBet Casino.
Let’s take a look at these new online casinos in WV.
A big name in the retail casino space, Caesars had taken its foot off the gas in terms of iGaming for a period of time. Although it had ambitions for the online channel, those plans involved its acquisition of bookmaker William Hill.
Caesars had wanted to keep that company’s US business while selling off its international operations. While working on that deal, it avoided launching in new states that William Hill was also entering, in order to avoid redundancy after the takeover. That plan came to fruition earlier this year, and Caesars began rebranding existing William Hill properties – including its West Virginia sportsbook – with its own name. Its operations in the state are in partnership with Mountaineer Casino in New Cumberland.
Since William Hill didn’t have a WV online casino, neither did Caesars at first. Though bettors in the Mountain State have been betting at Caesars Sportsbook since spring, it was only a couple of week ago that its online casino went live.
Along with the rebranding, Caesars has been taking an aggressive approach to bonuses. West Virginians can get a 100% match on their first deposit, up to a maximum of $2000, using bonus code FREECZR.
Hot on the heels of the Caesars launch, WynnBet announced that it had secured market access to the state. Its partner is Delaware North, which owns both the Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras retail gaming properties.
Like Caesars, Wynn Resorts is a major player in the retail casino space which took its time when it came to online. In its case, that didn’t have to do with complicated business deals, but rather the fact that its founder, namesake and original CEO Steve Wynn was opposed to the idea. It was only following his ouster that the company began expanding into the online space.
WynnBet was too late to market in New Jersey to make much impact there, but has established itself among the mid-tier sites in the Michigan online casino market. It will hope to carve out a similar niche for itself in West Virginia. No launch date has yet been set.
One has to feel that West Virginia is nearing the saturation point. Based on state rules, it could theoretically have up to 15 brands, since there are five eligible partners who can launch up to three online skins apiece.
However, with a population of just 1.8 million, there’s a limit to how much competition the state can handle before the crumbs the companies are fighting over become too small to be worth the expense.
Early this year, most online casino states had a ratio of about one brand per million population. New Jersey, as the longest standing market, was the exception with close to three brands per million. It has now exceeded that number. At the moment, Pennsylvania sits at around 1.3 and Michigan at 1.5.
West Virginia now has a ratio of 2.8, close to where New Jersey began the year. In other words, less than halfway into its second year, it is already as saturated with brands on a per capita basis as the Garden State was after seven and a half years of growth. Once WynnBet launches, the ratio will go up to 3.3, making it more saturated than New Jersey.
Faced with that level of competition, newcomers like Caesars and WynnBet will face an uphill climb. Unless their performance is considerably better than expected, other US iGaming brands like Golden Nugget won’t likely see much upside to throwing their own hats in the ring.