West Virginia’s sports betting industry has done well in its first three weeks of legal operations. The West Virginia Lottery Commission publishes weekly data on sportsbooks and this data showed that sportsbooks in the state accepted almost $3.4 million in wagers, with more than $1 million of that being revenue.
It’s difficult to tell if the trend will continue, but the handle from week to week has only increased:
These updates from the Lottery Commission are helpful to see overall, but we don’t get the details like how much each sport brought in or the breakdown by sportsbook.
The president of the West Virginia Gaming & Racing Association, John Cavacini, said the early numbers being reported are “promising” and pretty much what operators expected.
Since Hollywood Casino opened at the end of August and had the sports betting market to itself for a couple of weeks, most of the bets were placed in its William Hill sportsbook. It wasn’t until halfway through September that the sportsbook at The Greenbrier opened.
The Greenbrier opened its FanDuel sportsbook on September 14th, so only the revenue from the first eight days of its operation were included in this data. However, it does appear that handles from The Greenbrier’s first week of operation did impact the reported revenue.
Until other sportsbooks open, the FanDuel Sportsbook at The Greenbrier has pretty much a monopoly on the retail market in West Virginia. FanDuel Sportsbook will likely take control of online and mobile betting once that starts.
The state collected just over $100,000 in taxes from September’s sports betting revenue. Projections for tax revenue for the first year of operations is $5.5 million.
Regulators are finishing up with the process of turning the state’s temporary regulations into permanent rules. This is being overseen by newly hired John Myers, the Commission’s new director who was appointed by Governor Jim Justice on September 19th. Myers was acting director from 2015 to 2017. Myers steps into the position suddenly left by Alan Larrick, who quit without explanation only two days after Hollywood Casino opened its sportsbook.
Myers’ isn’t the only position going through some turmoil; the managing general counsel, Danielle Boyd, is missing in action and is either suspended from duties or possibly even fired.
Between Larrick and Boyd, they held the most knowledge about sports betting in the state and there is some speculation that their exits from the Lottery Commission weren’t by choice. One unnamed Senator said that it’s disturbing to think that Governor Jim Justice is catering to the interests of private stakeholders.
When asked by Legal Sports Report, Cavacini said that the staffing changes were due to “philosophical differences between the lottery staff and the governor’s office.” The differences were, according to him, relating to whether the WV sports betting framework should cater to the leagues with financial provisions going to the professional sports leagues.
The sports betting legislation passed in March, was without the Governor’s signature. Justice intentionally remained out of the legislation on sports betting due to his family owning The Greenbrier. Since then, he has been trying to get mandated partnerships between the casinos and leagues. Right now, there’s no legislation regarding this, and the two recently absent lottery staffers were the two most involved in rule-making enforcement.
The future of sports betting in WV is sure to be interesting: if Cavacini is right, there is bound to be some extreme tension between the legislature and the Governor.
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