West Virginia Sports Betting Expected By Football Season

Despite an 18-day delay waiting for approval of emergency sports betting rules, officials at West Virginia's five casinos are confident sports betting will be available by football season, though probably not online or via mobile apps. Casinos may operate sports books out of temporary locations for 90 days.

West Virginia’s five casinos expect sports betting to be available for football season this fall. West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association President John Cavacini said, “I look for the sportsbooks at the brick-and-mortar sites to be in place by the first week of September, the first weekend for the NFL season.”

The casinos couldn’t move forward for 18 days while Governor Jim Justice’s office reviewed, but made no changes to, proposed emergency rules for sports betting.

“That put us behind the 8-ball because none of the tracks were going to sign contracts for sportsbook vendors or invest in construction until the rules were filed,” Cavacini said. Now casinos have signed contracts with vendors to operate sports betting at their locations or they are negotiating those contracts, he said.

Lottery rules require lounges within the casino featuring betting windows and displays showing sporting events and odds. Casinos are allowed to set up those lounges in temporary locations for up to nine months.

Lottery Counsel Danielle Boyd said application forms for interim sports betting licenses should be available this week. “We’d like to start issuing these interim licenses ASAP. We’re still hoping to have them up and running by September 1.”Casinos are required to pay an annual sports book license fee of $100,000.

Boyd said online and mobile-app sports betting may not be available by the start of football season. She explained the mobile-app vendors must be licensed and the systems will require additional testing of required functions. For example, the geo-location system must correctly verify individuals are within West Virginia’s border when they place bets.

Boyd said the lottery also is working with counterparts in Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Mississippi to agree to share information about any unusual or suspicious sports betting activity. The new emergency rules require casinos to notify the Lottery and each other of any unusual betting patterns or activity.

Cavacini said he’s confident West Virginia casinos will have a sports betting monopoly in the region for at least one or two years.

“We believe we have a chance to really stand out, as it relates to sports betting. Our contiguous states, with the exception of Pennsylvania, haven’t passed sports betting laws, and Pennsylvania passed a law with a 36 percent tax rate,” he said. West Virginia’s tax rate is 10 percent. Pennsylvania also requires a $10 million annual licensing fee.