It has been an absolute roller coaster of a ride for West Virginia sports betting thus far in 2019. Even though there have been several high points for legal sports gambling in the Mountain State, there have also been a number of lows.
The state is currently in an odd position. After a short brush with online sports betting, bettors find themselves waiting for any WV online sportsbook to relaunch.
At the moment, there are only three active land-based sportsbooks in WV accepting sports bets. These include:
The other two retail casinos in the state were forced to suspend betting operations and eventually shut down completely due to a contractual dispute. There has not been any sports gambling at the Mardi Gras Casino Sportsbook or the Wheeling Island Sportsbook since March 6, 2019.
Besides leaving the state with only three retail sportsbooks, it also removed the only online platform that has existed in WV: BetLucky Sportsbook.
Since that point, revenue figures made available by the West Virginia Lottery have declined and become stagnant. Bettors in WV have proven that an online sportsbook is absolutely necessary to sustain a successful sports betting market.
There seemed to be a lot of hope more recently, though. Reports surfaced that online sportsbooks would be re-emerging within the state. This optimism has been quieted, however, due to more problems around both the Wire Act and possibly even Apple’s new app store guidelines.
Let’s take a deeper look into the first half of sports betting in 2019 and examine where WV will be in another six months.
High points in WV sports betting
Unfortunately, the highest point of the first half of 2019 came right at the beginning of the year. As the calendar moved to January, WV sportsbooks were operating at their best.
The first time the state hit $4 million in handle was the week ending Jan. 5. Handle then continued to be over $4 million in six of the first eight weeks of the new year.
Unfortunately, handle has only surpassed that total one time since.
The main proponent of this hot streak was the fact that Delaware North’s online sportsbook had just released. For the first time, WV gamblers could place sports wagers from the convenience of their own homes and the numbers show that they took advantage.
January is also a great time for sports betting. The NFL playoffs were underway and the NHL and NBA seasons were officially in full swing.
It appeared that WV was on its way to having a robust gambling market, but then the online betting app disappeared and so have the bets.
Low points for WV sportsbooks
The lowest point in the last six months might just be right now. After mobile sports betting ceased to exist, handle and revenue figures both started to decline.
Now that sports betting has reached a slow point in the year (no football, basketball or hockey), betting figures look even worse.
Since the start of April, the total handle in WV has not once reached $2.7 million for a week. During that time, sportsbooks have only generated revenue greater than $325,000 one time.
Things have become even more depressing because the promise of a new online sportsbook has yet to come true.
Excitement had been building for a few weeks after the news broke about the approval of new online sportsbooks. It then came to a climax as it was reported that the DraftKings Sportsbook had passed all of the necessary testing and was nearing a debut in WV.
This has since gone extremely downhill as both the Wire Act and Apple’s app store policy are causing these operators to take extra caution before relaunching online betting.
Beyond DraftKings, both FanDuel Sportsbook and William Hill Sportsbook are also expected to release mobile betting apps in the Mountain State. Only time will tell when exactly WV bettors will be able to get their hands on an online sportsbook.
A look ahead at sports betting in WV
It appears as though things can only go up considering how the WV sports betting market stands right now. Simply put, WV sportsbooks will never be able to flourish and reach their maximum potential without online sportsbooks.
WV has proven to be too rural of a state to consistently bring in bettors to the retail sportsbooks. Even when major sporting events are occurring, not enough residents have the motivation to drive several hours to place one wager.
Who can blame them?
In New Jersey, online betting figures trump how the land-based sportsbooks perform in terms of both handle and revenue. In May, NJ’s online sportsbooks pulled in nearly $14 million in revenue, whereas the retail books only generated about $2 million.
Sports betting is a fun hobby, but people aren’t going to go out of their way to do it. By having a quality sportsbook right on your mobile device, bettors are much more inclined to place casual wagers every night of the week.
Once the three online sportsbooks mentioned above hit the WV market, expect betting figures to reach all-time highs.
Not only will they bring online gambling back to the state, but they will do so with three of the best sportsbooks currently available in the US.
Hopefully, these operators are able to figure everything out and have sportsbooks available by the time football season starts.
So, will WV sports betting have a better second half of the year?
Yes, but it requires getting back online.