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First sports betting licenses issued by West Virginia Lottery

Aug 14, 2018, 10:10 pm

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West Virginia Lottery

Legalization of sports betting in West Virginia has reached another milestone, with the issuing of the first sports betting licenses by the state Lottery Commission.

That includes the first casino operator's license, issued to Hollywood Casino, in Charles Town.

"They are the first casino licensed to offer sports betting," Danielle Boyd, legal counsel for the Lottery Commission, said Monday. "They are committed to going live at Charles Town and accepting bets on Sept. 1."

She said Hollywood Casino anticipates installing sports betting software on Aug. 21, and will conduct employee training Aug. 29-31.

Boyd said she understands that two of the other four casinos are aiming for an early- to mid-September launch, with the other two looking to a late-September to mid-October launch. She said she would not identify the casinos over concerns of revealing proprietary information.

John Cavacini, president of the West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association, which represents the racetrack casinos, said he is aware that Delaware North, which operates Mardi Gras casino in Nitro and Wheeling Island casino, will begin signing up players for sports betting accounts early in September.

"They'll probably be ready to actually take bets by the third week to the fourth week of September," he said.

Status of launch dates for Mountaineer Casino, in Chester, and The Greenbrier resort, in White Sulphur Springs, were not available, although two of the licenses issued to date, to FanDuel as a management services provider, and IGT as a supplier, have contracts with The Greenbrier casino.

Cavacini said the launch of sports betting was hindered when filings of emergency rules to authorize sports betting were delayed for 32 days.

"The four tracks were not going to start the process of signing contracts and buying equipment without the rules and regulations in place," he said.

Cavacini has previously blamed the rule-making delays on attempts by the Justice administration to incorporate payments to professional sports leagues into the rules, either through paying a portion of sports betting revenues to the leagues as an "integrity fee" or by requiring the casinos to contract with the pro leagues to purchase "official league data."

Meanwhile, Boyd said the Lottery Commission has also issued a license to GeoComply to provide geolocation software required on sports betting smartphone and computer apps to verify the bettor is within the state of West Virginia when any bets are placed.

Even with the slight delay in what the Lottery Commission had hoped would be a Sept. 1 launch at all five casinos, Boyd said the state should enjoy a regional monopoly on sports betting for the immediate future.

The only neighboring state that has legalized sports betting is Pennsylvania and, so far, no casinos in that state have been willing to pay the $10 million license fee or 36 percent tax for sports betting. (By comparison, West Virginia casinos will pay a $100,000 annual fee and a 10 percent tax rate.)

Boyd said the Lottery has responded to inquiries from a number of jurisdictions about the sports betting legislation and rules.

"It looks like they're looking at copying our legislation as a model code," she said.

While the initial revenue projections for the state are comparatively low, Boyd said she believes sports betting will be invaluable in bringing people to West Virginia to place wagers, either at the casinos or other venues.

"These people are going to buy dinner, they're going to buy drinks, they're going to stay overnight, and they're going to help the local economy," she said.

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