To say it’s been an up and down year in West Virginia sports betting would be an understatement. The state’s fiscal year ended June 30 with 10 months of wagering and there have certainly been some struggles.
The state launched the first legal sportsbook in August 2018 but failed to realize some of the gains other states have seen. There are numerous reasons for that, but there remains some hope as the NFL and college football seasons approach.
However, to find success in collecting revenue such as in New Jersey, mobile betting apps must come online. Unfortunately, that is not looking like it will happen any time soon.
A look at WV sports betting revenue
From a revenue standpoint, West Virginia hasn’t matched the explosive growth seen in New Jersey and even Nevada.
In the entire 10 months that sports betting has been legal, revenue handle totaled $73.6 million with $8.3 million in total revenue.
Overall, a quick look at handle shows gains during the biggest betting season of the year – football. December, January and February showed promising growth and became the biggest months of the year.
That peaked during January and February during the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl. It included a high of $4.8 million for the week ending Jan. 5.
March Madness also produced some spikes in handle, with almost $4.4 million for the week ending March 23. However, that spike came solely from live wagering.
After the shutdown of the BetLucky app in early March, handle has continued to wither. Handle only reached about $1.5 million for the week ending June 29, with minuscule revenue. The week ending June 22 saw a paltry $26,363 in revenue.
Leading WV sportsbooks
Hollywood Casino is the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to total revenue and handle during the fiscal year. The property was the first in the state to allow sports betting last August.
Here’s a look at the three live retail sportsbooks that are currently open through July 6:
- Hollywood Sportsbook: $90.7 million $9.1 million
- Mountaineer Sportsbook: $19 million $1.7 million
- FanDuel Sportsbook at The Greenbrier: $5.5 million $439,409
Hollywood has a few advantages when it comes to sports betting.
The casino is a large property and located near the Virginia and Maryland borders. That makes it an easy trip for gamblers in Baltimore and Washington D.C.
William Hill Sportsbook operates its retail location and has name recognition for bettors. Hollywood also has a partnership with DraftKings Sportsbook for mobile wagering, but that has yet to come online.
Mountaineer has a less-ideal location in the state’s far north region but continues to draw weekly handle in the $300,000 to $600,000 range.
The Greenbrier partnered with FanDuel Sportsbook for its betting operations. As a private casino, it struggles to reach a five-digit handle each week.
Sports betting in WV suffers setbacks
So what’s the problem with the West Virginia betting market?
There are several and that begins by not having a viable mobile option.
The BetLucky app from Delaware North (operator of Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island casinos) came online in late December. The app found some initial gains in January, with a high of $123,000 in handle for the week ending Jan. 19.
Things seemed to be on a nice path for growth despite some shortcomings with the platform and customer service complaints. Then the app, along with the two casinos’ retail sportsbooks, was shut down due to a legal dispute between the company’s supplier, Miomni, and a third-party software supplier.
Delaware North is now seeking to sever its relationship with Miomni, but its two sportsbooks remain closed. After just six weeks, mobile wagering was gone – and West Virginians still remain without an option today.
Some bettors also noted a lack of marketing push by Delaware North. That may have hurt its efforts to grow the product even more.
That particularly hampers opportunities for bettors in such a rural state. Many in WV aren’t located near one of the three open live sportsbooks. Some have even considered heading to Pennsylvania to bet online if there’s not an option by football season.
WV Lottery lowers online sports betting expectations
Along with those struggles, West Virginia Lottery director John Myers expressed some reservations about the future of betting in the state. He believes the state’s market may never live up to what many hope.
He told WVNews.com that sports betting can be a “pain in the butt” and added:
“When you look at it — we did $1.14 billion in sales last year, and not even $2 million was from sports betting. That’s less than 1 percent.
“We didn’t really know exactly what we would do our very first year. We’re ending the year close to $1.2 million. I think it’s lower than what we expected, but not as much as what others expected it to be not having two of the casinos operating for part of the fiscal year.
“We would have seen some additional revenue, I’m sure, although we did get the majority of the football season, which is typically the largest revenue generator.”
His comments fail to recognize the popularity of online betting. In May, New Jersey produced more sports betting revenue than Nevada for the first time. Bettors wagered $318.9 million in the Garden State – $1.5 million more than in Nevada.
Many in the industry estimate around 80 percent of those totals come from online sportsbooks. West Virginia still remains an unknown when it comes to possible mobile revenue.
Myers also doesn’t take into consideration that two retail sportsbooks have been closed since March. Many bettors were not pleased with Myers’ comments.
WV Lottery Director calls #sportsbetting a "pain in the butt."
Not sure any state has had a worse start to sports wagering than West Virginia.https://t.co/VajUAPpAIb
— Steve Bittenbender (@CasinoOrgSteveB) July 14, 2019
— Matt Pullen (@WVChew) July 16, 2019
DraftKings was expected to enter the market in recent months, but there hasn’t been any movement on that front. West Virginia’s bettors remain stuck with no easy betting option.
The future of sports betting in WV
So where does the state’s sports betting market go from here?
NFL and college football seasons are approaching and offers the biggest betting season of the year.
No doubt there will be plenty of business at the three open retail outlets, but will there be a mobile option?
Also, will Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras sportsbooks be open for business again?
A “no” answer to one or both of those questions could keep handle down and revenue still in the doldrums. That could also be a major black mark for the state’s sports betting efforts with the public.
A slow rollout of mobile options ensures more will gamble using offshore sites or through illegal bookmakers. Others will take trips to Pennsylvania to place bets,
That is missed revenue for the state’s casinos including ancillary income for hotel rooms, other gaming, entertainment, and more. It’s also missed tax revenue for the state.
Can WV right the sports betting ship? Only time will tell.