West Virginia Sports Betting is Officially Live

The Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races booked the first legal sports wager in West Virginia this morning after launching two days ahead of schedule. The Hollywood Casino Twitter account broke the surprise news this morning:

WV MetroNews reported today that Delegate Jason Barrett of Berkeley had the honors of placing the first legal bet in West Virginia. His choice: $50 on WVU to win the national football championship. He stands to win about $3,000 if WVU can pull it off.

Barrett told MetroNews that placing the state’s first wager was a piece of cake:

“It reminded me of betting on a horse race. You walk up to a counter and there’s a teller there and you tell them the wager you want to make. You hand them the cash and they hand you a ticket back.”

Hollywood Casino still has a grand opening ceremony scheduled for Saturday morning, during which the legendary Joe Theismann will kick off the party. The Hollywood Casino sportsbook will open at 8 AM Saturday with festivities starting at 11 AM.

Local media outlets had reported as recently as yesterday that the Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino would open on Saturday after successful system tests conducted by the West Virginia Lottery Commission. The casino finished its own preparations a few days early and opted to open the book this morning rather than wait until the weekend.

Hollywood Casino will have a monopoly over WV sports betting until the state’s other four casinos launch their own sportsbooks. Estimated start dates for the other casinos range from September through October, but we have no firm dates from others as of yet.

All five WV casinos have confirmed they will offer sports betting – with all hoping to go live early in the upcoming NFL season. Hollywood Casino may have first dibs on the new market, but other sportsbooks will be going live in the near future.

The next to go live may be the sportsbook at the Casino Club at the Greenbrier resort. This seems likely because the West Virginia Lottery Commission issued sports betting licenses to Hollywood Casino and FanDuel earlier this month. It only took two-and-a-half weeks for the Hollywood Casino sportsbook to launch after receiving its license, and FanDuel is partnered with the Greenbrier to conduct sports betting.

West Virginia joins a growing list of states with legal sports betting in operation. Nevada has had legal sports betting for decades, but PASPA prohibited every other state from legalizing single game sports betting until the Supreme Court struck it down in May.

In the three months since then, five states have passed legislation and four of those now have active, legal sportsbooks. Delaware was the first to launch, followed shortly by New Jersey and Mississippi.

Pennsylvania has also passed laws to legalize sports betting, but residents there are still waiting for the first sportsbooks to go live.

Hollywood Casino is in Position to Capitalize on Sports Betting

Hollywood Casino is West Virginia’s largest sportsbook and also the most vulnerable to competition from other states due to its location, but will now be the only casino in the region with an active sportsbook. Additionally, Hollywood Casino Sportsbook will be the nearest option for everyone living in the Baltimore-Washington DC metro area.

Erich Zimny, VP of Racing and Sporting Operations at Hollywood Casino, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that he expects sports betting to “add a lot of foot traffic.” Sports betting is not typically considered a major moneymaker for land-based casinos, but the mere act of getting people in the front door is good for business as those people explore other gaming, dining and entertainment options.

The addition of mobile and online sports betting may prove even more lucrative for Hollywood Casino as it offers a low-cost, always-on form of sports betting that has proven extremely lucrative for overseas operators. In-play betting, which allows customers to place short-term bets during games, will also result in greater betting volume and profits for WV sportsbooks.

A start date for online and mobile betting hasn’t been announced as the WV Lottery Commission is still working out how it will regulate online betting. However, WV MetroNews reported today that a Hollywood Casino mobile sports betting app is just “a few weeks away” from launch.

Zooming out, the state of West Virginia itself is ready to capitalize as a whole with sports betting. When Pennsylvania does get sports betting up and running, its sportsbooks will operate from a major tax and cost disadvantage.

While Pennsylvania is charging casinos $10 million for a sports betting license and then 36% on top of that in taxes, West Virginia is only asking for a $100,000 licensing fee and charging a 10% tax. Both states will have online, mobile and in-person sports betting and will serve as an interesting comparison point for how taxes affect the industry.

Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks will have a tough time competing under such a heavy tax schedule. They’ll either have to eat the difference or offer odds that are not as generous as those that will be found in West Virginia. Either way, the West Virginia gaming industry finds itself in a good spot as the next NFL season rolls around.

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