West Virginia Ready to Launch Online Sports Betting
By Ken Edwards, 7 October 2018
Way ahead of schedule, West Virginia’s Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races is preparing to launch their live online mobile betting app in the coming weeks. While crowds have flocked to take part in legal West Virginian sports betting onsite at the casino, the launch of the mobile app is a godsend for those who can’t get to the casino, live a prohibitive traveling distance away from the casino, or simply prefer to stay in the comfort of their own home with their feet up on the sofa and gamble from there.
The vice president of racing and sports operations at Hollywood Casino (the first of the two operating sports books to open their doors in West Virginia, the other being FanDuel Sports Book at The Greenbrier), Erich Zinny, announced recently;
“So, we expect to launch our mobile app, I don’t have a firm date. It’s not going to be next week, it’s not going to be three to four months from now; we hope to get it up and running in the next few weeks.”
The body responsible for administering the rollout of sports betting (both land-based and online) in general in the state, the West Virginia Lottery, has not offered up any clues as to when some of the other casinos may release their online betting platforms to the public. Given that two of other state’s casinos (Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island casinos) have been forced into a delay of the release of their land-based sports books, its anticipated that the online sports book release may be delayed too.
Of course, administrators and management at Hollywood Casino must be rubbing their palms together in glee as they have been first cab off the rank with legal sports betting, both land-based and online. The virtual temporary monopoly is surely winning over many sports bettors as they become accustomed to Hollywood Casino’s processes, and the brand awareness it is creating in the minds of sports bettors for the future is undoubtedly priceless.
Two other Casinos Delay their Sports Book Implementation
The roll out of sports betting at two other West Virginia casinos has been temporarily put on hold, according to West Virginia Lottery Commission officials.
Sports betting had been tentatively ‘penciled in’ to open by the end of September 2018 at Wheeling Island Casino in Wheeling and Mardi Gras Casino in Nitro.
Media reports quoted Lottery spokesman Randy Burnside told reporters ‘that Delaware North, the casinos’ parent company, had advised the Lottery it would delay launching sportsbooks’ at both locations but he did not offer any clues as to why that was.
Burnside says the Lottery is waiting for a response from Delaware North to schedule testing this month (October 2018). Meanwhile, Hollywood Casino is enjoying the sports betting limelight.
Technology Assists in the Rollout of West Virginia’s Online Sports Betting
As the largest of the West Virginia casinos, Hollywood Casino perhaps had an inherent advantage in being the first prepared for legal sports betting in the state. Sports betting on casino premises are required to be undertaken from a booth located in a sports betting lounge, or sportsbook, that meets the rules and necessary location requirements of the licensing authority, the West Virginia Lottery Commission.
So too with technology systems and online version of the sports books.
Regarding security concerns, West Virginia Lottery Commission rules require casino operators to have controls and systems in place to uncover any abnormal or unexpected betting activities, “and report such activity according to the integrity monitoring system procedures” subject to commission guidelines.
Moreover, casino operators have to ensure that online wagers are from residents or visitors actually physically present in West Virginia at the time of the wager. Online sports book operators are required to use geolocation technology “to reasonably detect” the location of their online players at the time of accessing their sports betting online platform.
The Early Success of West Virginia Sports Betting
In what is an exciting time for sports bettors in the Mountain State, and an encouraging time for casino operators, it appears that despite being in its infancy, the sports betting industry is building a solid foundation for its future in West Virginia.
Unsurprisingly, on August 30 2018, the first ever legal sports bet in West Virginia was a $50 wager on the Mountain State’s much-loved college football team, West Virginia University (WVU) to win the national championship this season. Since then, business has been steady, and Hollywood Casino’s location has a lot to do with that. It’s the largest of all 5 of West Virginia’s casinos, and located on a 90-minute drive from both Baltimore and Washington D.C., it’s the perfect location to benefit from a rage of pro sporting teams in the area. As Hollywood Casino’s, General Manager, Scott Saunders observed before the opening day;
‘“This region is a hotbed of both professional sports and college athletics, and we look forward to becoming a destination for fans in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC.”
That’s precisely what unfolded during the first 3 weeks of operation from September 1 to 22 2018, with Hollywood Casino taking $3.4 million in total wagers (together with FanDuel Sportsbook from its opening date on September 14). Its pertinent to note however, that those impressive figures are slightly inflated by inclusion of outstanding future bets in the results.
Regardless, the figures are outstanding and from that wagered amount, the state of West Virginia had taken more than $100 000 in taxes and is already well on the way to meeting its projections for the first year of legal sports betting operations in the state of $5.5 million.
Given the fantastic beginning for legal sports betting in the state, the following few months of land-based casino sports book roll outs and their associated online mobile version launches should prove to be interesting in West Virginia and other State Governments watching the developments closely.