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The first two weeks of November were the busiest yet for the young West Virginia sports betting industry.
State-regulated operators took in more than $6 million in wagers across that span, recording the first $3 million week since the Aug. 30 launch. Though the numbers look decent in isolation, they don’t show the sharp growth some some had projected for WV sports betting.
A lengthy delay in the rollout of online/mobile options continues to act as an artificial ceiling, limiting total sports betting handle. Nearly three months after launch, only one brick-and-mortar sportsbook took action from locals.
(That changed Wednesday with the launch of a William Hill book at Mountaineer Casino in New Cumberland. The Eldorado-owned property sits less than 50 miles from Pittsburgh and also closely borders Ohio.)
Factor in an unusually hot streak for bettors, and WV books are down more than $400,000 to begin the month.
Hollywood Casino enjoyed a short head start in the market before FanDuel Sportsbook joined in mid-September. The latter is situated behind the private gates of The Greenbrier, so Hollywood still operates the lone public sportsbook in the state.
With in-person wagering as the only option, action at FanDuel Sportsbook is negligible. It wrote less than $150,000 in tickets during each of the first two weeks of November.
Compounded by additional losses last month, the book has earned a total of $4,619.99 in revenue since launch at The Greenbrier — about $500 per week.
The William Hill sportsbook at Hollywood generates the vast majority of WV sports betting, having taken more than $21 million in wagers to date. Its revenue also sprung a sudden leak, though:
Losses are not unique to WV sportsbooks, as public tickets have been coming through at an unusually high rate in recent weeks. As far as found money goes, the to-date totals still look okay:
Regulators initially projected $5.5 million in first-year tax revenue from WV sports betting. That forecast came under sunny skies, though, assuming five sportsbooks plus statewide online/mobile wagering.
The state has realized less than $300,000 in taxes to date — on pace for around $1.2 million in year one. And the opportunity to capture peak traffic from football season is starting to run thin.
That number should get itself onto a better track once the marketplace fills in, but the clock is ticking. Though all five WV casinos are approved to offer sports betting, timelines for the other three have been sliding in the wrong direction.
Delaware North owns both Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island, and it has a WV sports betting partnership with Miomni that covers all channels. Miomni does not currently provide an end-to-end solution in the US, though, and the duo wasn’t ready for the testing initially scheduled in October.
Mountaineer Casino was the last to apply for a license about a month ago, but now accepts wagers.
Of course, the lack of greater expansion is probably just fine with Hollywood. Vice President of Racing & Sports Operations Erich Zimny said his team is “absolutely pleased” with the performance to date.
“Wagering volume has been very solid, the sportsbook has helped drive some foot traffic to the property and it’s added a new dynamic to our facility. There’s a lot of energy down there on the weekends since it’s not only where you place your wagers, but it’s also a great spot to watch a game at too.”
Zimny also noted that customers are becoming more familiar with the “sports betting vocabulary,” which eases operations.
Here’s how WV sports betting handle and revenue is charting out over time:
It is hard to squawk too much about linear growth, but comparisons against other markets do suggest a missed opportunity.
In New Jersey, for example, online/mobile betting already accounts for a full two thirds of all traffic. Since digital launch, NJ sports betting numbers have grown at a pace that looks more exponential than linear.
The fact that WV has suddenly lost its regional monopoly should create more urgency, too.
Pennsylvania just launched its own state-regulated industry last week, and odds are it will have digital platforms up and running before its mountainous neighbor. Expect PA sports betting to pull traffic across the border — reversing any previous flow — until both states can offer bettors the same choices.
The source of the delay in WV still isn’t clear, but it’s unlikely to originate with the existing operators. Both FanDuel Sportsbook and William Hill are up and running elsewhere, and both are approved to operate their platforms within West Virginia.
The WV Lottery, which administers sports betting in the state, did not return a Monday request for comment on the online/mobile timeline.