Despite its conservative reputation, West Virginia has emerged as one of the most ambitious states in the US when it comes to modernized gambling.
Lawmakers began modernizing the state’s gambling legislation in 2018, and regulated WV sports betting rolled out just in time for the 2018-19 NFL season. One year later, casino-style online gambling is in the cards, too.
After years of flirting with the idea, lawmakers in 2019 finally passed the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act (H 2934) that would legalize WV online gambling. The bipartisan proposal was sponsored by Del. Jason Barrett and 10 of his colleagues.
As was the case with the WV sports betting bill, Gov. Jim Justice allowed WV online gambling to become law without his signature on March 27.
West Virginia has officially legalized online casinos and poker in the state, as Gov. Jim Justice let the bill lapse into law without intervening.
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It is decidedly good news that West Virginia is on the path to offer online gambling and poker to residents and visitors. The bad news is that it will likely be some time before the actual launch occurs.
According to the new law, West Virginia Lottery officials have until June 2020 to finalize regulations. After that, the window for submitting applications will open.
Getting an application to operate approved, however, is not typically a quick process. It could realistically be 2021 before a West Virginia online casino pops up.
The five WV casinos are the only operators eligible to apply for licenses.
Hollywood Casino Charles Town is the largest casino in West Virginia. The property has the distinction of being the first in-state to offer sports betting, opening a William Hill sportsbook in September 2018.
Hollywood also has a partnership with DraftKings Sportsbook. Since DraftKings also operates an online casino in New Jersey, it is possible that a West Virginia version could take root.
The Greenbrier houses one of the most unique casino properties in the country. Owned by WV Gov. Jim Justice, it is the only private casino in the US.
However, it seems rather unlikely that the Greenbrier would design an online casino app expressly for use by its members and guests. Any sort of strategic partner would be excused for throwing a fit.
In the case of the Greenbrier, FanDuel is unequivocally its partner. FanDuel Sportsbook already operates the retail facility at the Greenbrier, and there are no indications that the exclusive resort is looking out the door right now.
Mardi Gras Casino and Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack are the two Delaware North properties located in West Virginia. Unfortunately, that fact means that any sort of development in the mobile sphere is in a sort of limbo.
These two properties were the first casinos outside of Nevada and New Jersey to offer online sports betting. Parent company Delaware North launched the BetLucky brand as the mobile arm of both casinos.
Due to a foul-up with its strategic partner, Miomni, Delaware North has had to suspend its sports betting operations indefinitely. At this point, it appears unlikely that BetLucky will return to West Virginia. Delaware North severed ties with Miomni shortly after the service interruption began.
Of course, this setback means that Delaware North (and by extension, Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island) must essentially start from scratch on any online development and sports betting plans.
Interestingly, one possible partner option for an online casino is The Stars Group. TSG would have the ability to fulfill any of the designs that Delaware North would have on the online space.
Mountaineer Hotel, Casino & Resort tends to be the most isolated property in West Virginia, both in geographic location and in attitude. Its plans and movements are often as difficult to decipher as the Greenbrier’s, and Mountaineer does not have the benefit of a private location.
Nevertheless, the casino’s movement from no application to open sportsbook in the span of a month suggests that Mountaineer’s management can be quite decisive at times. So, look for an online casino from Mountaineer just to pop up one day.
With that said, it’s not clear which company will aid Mountaineer on the technology side of things. The company has a partnership with William Hill for its retail sports betting, but William Hill’s core competency is sports betting, not general casino gambling.
Speaking of online sports betting, West Virginia’s foray into the online sports betting world continues to be a sad chapter in American gambling history. The suspension of BetLucky‘s operations has been a setback for the state, and all signs indicate that the app will not be returning to West Virginia in its previous form.
The failure of BetLucky is likely to have ramifications for other companies who wish to operate online sportsbooks. The WV Lottery may demand increased assurances about any kind of operator partnership.
At this point, there are not many rumors that online sports betting is going to crank back up soon. However, FanDuel and William Hill both have footholds in the state already, so a transition to an online book might not be a difficult proposition for them.
Once online sports betting returns, it could be quite the industry. The state law allows each operator to offer three skins apiece, so that could translate into quite a few competitors.
Here is the current partnership structure for WV sports betting:
|The Greenbrier||FanDuel Sportsbook|
|Hollywood||William Hill US, DraftKings Sportsbook|
|Mountaineer||William Hill US|
There are several companies that have indicated they would like to expand into the West Virginia online casino market – whenever it launches – and the online sports betting market. These companies have varying levels of involvement in the state already.
However, regardless of their current status, it would not be a shock to see some sort of product from all of them. They are:
Yes, but WV online gambling is not yet fully regulated and implemented. The new law directs regulators to promulgate rules in 2020.
WV online sports betting is also legal, but the state’s only licensed operator remains offline amid a third-party contract dispute.
West Virginia has four racetrack casinos and one private resort casino.
Those five properties are the only ones allowed to seek operator licenses for WV online gambling and sports betting. Regulators determine the number of partner brands (or “skins”) permitted for each licensee during the rule-making process.
WV sports betting regulations allow up to three skins per licensee.
It’s not clear yet.
Third-party suppliers must partner with a land-based casino in order to offer WV online gambling. So far, PokerStars does not have a public deal with any WV casino licensee.
Operators pay $250,000 apiece for the privilege of offering WV online gambling. Licenses are valid for five years, and renewal costs $100,000.
The state taxes WV online gambling revenue at a rate of 15 percent. WV sports betting revenue is taxed at a rate of 10 percent.
West Virginia is, of course, a small market with a population of about 1.8 million residents. As such, online gambling will serve as more of a casino amenity than a standalone money-making machine.
Analysts project $3.9 million in first-year revenue from WV online gambling, growing as the industry matures over time.
The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act is now the law of the land in West Virginia. So, what does the law specify?
First and foremost, the law grants the five casinos in West Virginia the ability to offer online casino gambling. They must apply for licenses, but those five properties are the only eligible parties to apply.
The initial application for the license will cost each casino $250,000. Each property must renew their license every five years, at a cost of $100,000.
Additionally, platform and service management licenses will cost $100,000. Suppliers will only have to pay $10,000 for their licenses.
Online gambling revenue will be subject to a 15% tax. This rate is less than half the rate in neighboring Pennsylvania.
One thing that the law does not address is the notion of how many skins each licensee may offer. However, the state’s sports betting law sets the number of skins at 3, so it stands to reason that online casino licensees will have more than one skin.
However, any skin will have to be co-branded with its license partner. So, potential partners will have to decide if it’s worth the unwieldy branding to move forward.