West Virginia appears to be next in line to commence sports betting. The WV Lottery Commission has issued the first operator’s licenses to Hollywood Casino and FanDuel, the latter of which having an agreement with the Greenbrier casino to provide it with sports betting services.
Penn National, which owns the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, is anticipating spending the rest of August to get everything ready and hopes to take its first sports bets on September 1st.
According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Hollywood Casino is planning to install sports betting software at its casino on August 21st and conduct employee training on August 29-31st. After that, the casino will be ready to begin taking wagers.
FanDuel reached an agreement with the Greenbrier Resort in June to provide retail, mobile and online sports betting. There are no details on when FanDuel and the Greenbrier will commence sports betting, but the licensing is in place and it shouldn’t be too much longer before we hear more about that partnership.
The Gazette-Mail also indicated yesterday that all five of the state’s casinos are interested in offering sports betting. According to the Gazette-Mail, two of other four casinos are considering an early to mid-September launch while the other two are looking at a late-September to mid-October launch.
If the Gazette-Mail report is accurate, that leaves us with the following casinos and their anticipated launch dates for sports betting:
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races: September 1st
- Casino Club at the Greenbrier: September or October
- Mardi Gras Casino & Resort: September or October
- Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort: September or October
- Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack: September or October
Online sports betting is also legal in West Virginia, but there is no word yet on when any of the state’s casinos will be ready to offer online or mobile betting.
Comparing West Virginia to Pennsylvania
With this development, West Virginia is set to join Pennsylvania as one of the early adopters of sports betting in the USA. New Jersey, Delaware and Mississippi already have sports betting up and running. Pennsylvania is also on the short list with the gaming laws in place and the first operators having already applied for sports betting licenses.
Operators in West Virginia will have the advantage of favorable taxes and fees over their competitors across the border in Pennsylvania. While Pennsylvania casinos are required to cough up a $10 million licensing fee and pay 36% in taxes, operators in West Virginia will only be dealing with a $100,000 licensing fee every five years and a 10% tax rate.
West Virginia sportsbooks will have a distinct advantage over their competition across the border in Pennsylvania. The high tax rate in Pennsylvania has been the subject of considerable discussion, with many wondering how PA casinos will fare against competition from neighboring states and illegal bookmakers.
At one point, someone with William Hill USA flat out said they’re not interested in entering the PA market due to the costs associated with licenses. However, a handful of casinos and service providers have since applied for sports betting licenses in PA. Even so, the expensive operating environment will be an ongoing concern.
The vastly different licensing fees and tax rates between two neighboring states will serve as a useful case study in how tax rates impact the sports betting landscape. Both states have legalized online and in-person betting, but have chosen to pursue vastly different licensing and tax schemes.
Once WV and PA get their sports betting industry running, we’ll be able to compare the two states in terms of value offered to players, player retention, the ability to channel sports bettors to licensed options and revenue generated for the state.
If the West Virginia model does prove to be more fruitful in generating tax revenue and developing a healthy industry, other states may opt to follow suit. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported yesterday that the WV Lottery Commission has received numerous requests from other jurisdictions asking about the regulatory scheme.
Lottery Commission legal counsel Danielle Boyd told the Gazette-Mail, “it looks like they’re looking at copying our legislation.” These are promising words for those of us who believe the West Virginia model is better for the industry and players alike.