In July, West Virginia became the fourth state in the U.S. to launch online casinos and mobile sportsbooks, joining Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.
The industry got off to a good start in West Virginia, soaring in August and September, then hitting a wall last month. The sports betting handle for September—the second full month of iGaming in the Mountain State—came to almost $78 million, up 89.3% from August, with revenues for the same period up a staggering 242%.
Don’t be misled by the ups and downs. That strong start was likely boosted by the return of Big Sports, including the ongoing NFL and NCAAF seasons. And there’s another factor in play: the West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC) tabulates gaming revenues weekly, and the September numbers covered five full weeks, including the last few days of August and the first three days of October.
In October, most major-league sports were done. On September 28, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup. On October 11, the Los Angeles Lakers became NBA champs. And on October 27, the L.A. Dodgers aced the World Series. As a result, the October sports betting handle in West Virginia was $44.7 million, down 42% from September, and online sportsbooks took in just $26.6 million in October, down from $59.2 million in September. It’ll be interesting to see how the numbers play out as we go into a sports drought this winter.
The iGaming market posted a decline as well, with the total handle down 29.0% from September and online casino gambling down 16.9%. Chalk it up to growing pains and the fall sports season shifting gears.
What’s On Offer
So far, West Virginia permits online casino gambling and mobile sportsbooks.
Online poker is also legal but not yet available, and its fate in the state is by no means certain. Due to the state’s small player pool (West Virginia’s total population is just 1.8 million people), iGaming operators could feel poker isn’t worth the investment—unless and until there’s some clarity about the Federal Wire Act, which bans betting across state lines, and originally applied only to sports betting. In 2019, The Wire Act was reinterpreted by the Department of Justice under the Trump administration, and its status remains in limbo today.
The hope is that interstate poker games will be deemed legal, so gamblers in states like West Virginia will be able to play against those in other states, thereby growing the player base as well as the revenue potential. Meanwhile, Lottery Director John Myers recently told a local media outlet, “We would love to see the launch of an online poker option with a provider in West Virginia. However, under advice from the attorney general’s office, that will be delayed until the DOJ’s current opinion regarding the Federal Wire Act is resolved or a studio is built inside the borders of West Virginia.”
Live-dealer or simulcast games are also under consideration by the WVLC.
Stay tuned to iGamingPlayer for more news on iGaming and mobile sports betting in West Virginia.
Meanwhile, let’s look at some premier operators now active in West Virginia:
- BetMGM is one of the most popular and well-known online gaming and sportsbook brands. The company owned jointly by MGM Resorts and GVC Holdings launched its BetMGM Casino in West Virginia in August, delivering the widest range of online casino games currently available in the state, ranging from best-in-class blackjack and roulette games to a host of slots, including West Virginia’s only online progressive jackpot-linked games, with the potential for huge payouts with every spin. The new casino product will be presented as a dedicated tab within the BetMGM Sports West Virginia mobile app, complementing BetMGM’s market-leading sports betting product with an interactive and comprehensive online casino experience. BetMGM Casino operates in conjunction with the Greenbrier resort. BetMGM Casino is also available in New Jersey and will be available 8in Pennsylvania and Michigan in the coming months, subject to obtaining regulatory approvals. In West Virginia, the BetMGM Welcome Offer includes a risk-free bet of up to $500 for new players.
- William Hill opened the first legal sportsbook in West Virginia in 2018 at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, and also operates the sportsbook at the Mountaineer Casino. It launched its mobile operation from both locations in September. Players can tap in from anywhere in the state using a computer or mobile device; the app is available for Android or iOS, and all bets available at Hollywood and Mountaineer will be on the mobile betting app, including parlay and teaser cards. Players can bet on all major sports—football, baseball, hockey and basketball—along with golf, tennis, auto racing, boxing, mixed martial arts and WV collegiate sports. William Hill is a global sports betting company with books around the world and a presence in every legal U.S. sports betting market including Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey and now, West Virginia. William Hill offers a Welcome Bonus of up to $500 for new registrants only.
- PokerStars. As mentioned, online poker has yet to launch in West Virginia, so let’s take a look at the site’s New Jersey operation for clues. PokerStars in the Garden State offers the best tournaments and games, secure deposits, fast withdrawals and award-winning software. Players will find rules and hand rankings for Texas Hold’em, Omaha and other poker games, and can practice their skills with Play Money before joining real-money games. PokerStars is also home to the best online poker events, with some of the top online tournament series in the world, weekly tournaments, plus many more every day of the week. PokerStars boasts that it has a game starting “every second.” The PokerStars app is available for download on iOS devices, with iPhone for the ultimate mobile experience, and iPad recommended for big-screen enhancements and extended battery life, perfect for tournaments and long running game sessions. Sign up to wager at PokerStars, make your first deposit of $20 or more, and get $30 in free play.