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After legalizing sports gambling in March, West Virginia is just days away from launching its state-regulated industry. It will become the fifth state to do so, and the fourth since the pivotal US Supreme Court ruling in May.
Hollywood Casino is set to ring in WV sports betting Saturday, and its plans include a big name from the NFL.
Well-known player and commentator Joe Theismann will be on hand to christen The Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino. The property’s Twitter account announced the guest of honor late last week.
Hollywood owner Penn National Gaming has been at the front edge of the push toward sports betting in WV for months. Now, it’s less than a week away from taking the first legal bets in the state.
Earlier in August, Penn secured the first interim permit, valid for 270 days. The paperwork revealed a partnership with William Hill, which will operate Hollywood’s product across all channels. A week later, Penn confirmed its launch date for Sept. 1.
Pretty much every sportsbook that’s opened in the last few months has included ceremonial first bets from sports stars — from Dr. J at Borgata to Willis McGahee at Beau Rivage. Hollywood will be no exception.
Theismann is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame who played in both the CFL and NFL after graduating from Notre Dame. Apart from the gruesome injury that ended his career in 1985, he is best known for his sharp work in the booth. Over his 30-year broadcasting career, Theismann has served as an analyst for primetime NFL games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights.
It’s a good pull for Hollywood. Theismann is a big enough sports celebrity to attract a crowd on his own, likely drawing some avid sports fans who are not current bettors. The Theismann family owns property in nearby Alexandria, Va.
Not in the first few days, at least. To date, four of the five WV casinos have received interim licenses:
Both Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island are owned by the same group, Delaware North.
Each property must undergo on-site testing before launch, and that process is underway this week at Hollywood. William Hill was recently approved as Penn’s management partner, so the systems check is the last hurdle to clear. If things go well, a soft launch prior to Saturday is even a possibility.
FanDuel Sportsbook also received its interim permit to provide both retail and online/mobile sports betting for The Greenbrier. That duo is the only other that’s secured interim licensure so far, though the timeline for launch is still undetermined.
DraftKings Sportsbook is approved, too, but it doesn’t have a casino partner yet. It could be in discussions with one of those free agents, but WV regulations do allow operators to form as many as three alliances apiece. Hollywood and The Greenbrier could double-dip if they wanted to do so.
Mountaineer Casino hasn’t yet applied for WV sports betting, but regulators expect it to do so in the near future. Mountaineer is owned by Eldorado Resorts, a large gambling company with a broad presence in the region.