West Virginia sports betting appears healthy in its infancy.
Through the first three weeks of operation, sportsbooks took in almost $3.4 million in total wagers. More than $1 million of that turned into revenue, though that number is artificially inflated with the inclusion of outstanding futures wagers.
The data comes from the WV Lottery Commission, which publishes updated figures on a weekly basis.
Early turnout from WV sports betting
It’s hard to put the early numbers into any sort of meaningful context, but the trend is certainly encouraging. Here’s how the handle has increased from week to week so far:
- Sept. 1-7: $457,788
- Sept. 8-14: $1,104,008
- Sept. 15-21: $1,801,608
The frequency of WV sports betting updates is wonderful, but it comes at the cost of some detail. We can’t tell, for example, how the numbers break down between the sportsbooks or across individual sports.
Bettors at Hollywood Casino are responsible for the majority of it, though. It opened its William Hill sportsbook at the tail end of August, enjoying the market to itself for a couple weeks.
The FanDuel Sportsbook opened at The Greenbrier on Sept. 14, so its revenue is only included in the last eight days of this data. Although on-site wagering figures to be limited at the private resort, it looks like it moved the needle in the third full week of betting.
Apart from residents and guests there, Hollywood still holds what amounts to a monopoly on the retail market in the state. At least two more sportsbooks should open soon, though, and FanDuel Sportsbook expects to seize control once online/mobile betting begins.
John Cavacini, president of the WV Gaming & Racing Association, called the early numbers “promising” and in line with operators’ expectations.
The state had collected just over $100,000 in taxes from September sports betting through last Friday, looking to meet first-year projections of $5.5 million.
Staff changes still unresolved
Any mention of the bright outlook for WV sports betting comes with a few caveats these days, though.
Following a 30-day public comment period, regulators are in the process of cementing temporary regulations into permanent legislative rules. The process is being overseen by new director John Myers, who’s working his first days on the job.
The previous director, Alan Larrick, resigned without explanation just two days after Hollywood opened its betting windows. More recently, it’s become apparent that the managing general counsel is at least suspended from her duties and possibly something more drastic. By all accounts, these are the two folks with the most intimate knowledge of WV sports betting. Now they’re uninvolved, and apparently not by choice.
During a recent committee meeting in the statehouse, lawmakers couldn’t hide their frustrations with the changes and the perception that Gov. Jim Justice is catering to private interests behind the scenes.
“It’s just disturbing the hell out of me,” one senator said. Another lawmaker, a state delegate, called the lottery an “agency in dysfunction.”
Cavacini sees through the haze
More at liberty to speculate than some, Cavacini says the staff changes stemmed from “philosophical differences between the lottery staff and the governor’s office.” Those differences center around whether or not league-friendly provisions, including financial provisions, should be part of the WV sports betting framework.
Since legislation passed without his signature in March, the governor has worked to circumvent the rules and mandate partnerships between leagues and casinos. Legislative appetite for such a mandate is nil, the law makes no such provisions, and the now-missing lottery staffers were the two pillars of enforcement at the rule-making level.
Cavacini has not spoken with Larrick regarding his departure, but he believes the general counsel’s discipline stems from the distribution of sports betting data like that included here. This information, it should be noted, is public record once audited by lottery staff.
Regardless, the next few weeks and months of sports betting news should be interesting in West Virginia. If Cavacini’s instincts are correct, the tension between the governor and the legislature is approaching its breaking point.