West Virginia has become the third US state to offer its citizens mobile sports wagering after launched in the Mountain State over the festive period. It allows West Virginians to bet on football, tennis, basketball, hockey and baseball from the comfort of their own homes via an app or mobile site. That is a luxury only previously afforded to sports fans in Nevada and New Jersey, and it makes West Virginia a pioneer in this nascent industry.
It is one of six states to join Nevada in offering legal sports wagering since the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA in May 2018, along with New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Sports betting is also taking place at a casino on tribal land in New Mexico, bringing the total up to eight. However, sports wagering is confined to brick and mortar sportsbooks in most of those states, which has prevented them from realising their true potential.
In New Jersey the majority of sports bets are placed online, mirroring a trend seen in mature markets like the UK. Given the choice, most people prefer to place bets from their mobile devices while on the go or relaxing at home, rather than having to travel to a specific location. That is now possible in West Virginia thanks to Delaware North, which has just launched betlucky.com along with two land-based sportsbooks, one in at Wheeling Island Casino in Wheeling and the other at Mardi Gras Casino near Charleston. That should see it go on to quickly become the market leader in the state as it offers fans a rounded experience.
“We think West Virginians and visitors to the Mountain State are going to love how easy it is to register and use the app,” said Luisa Woods, vice president of marketing for Delaware North’s gaming division. “The platform was designed to be flexible, easy to use and reliable, with innovative features designed specifically to engage and entertain US sports fans. Patrons at the casinos can use the app or the betting tellers in the sportsbooks.”
The US Sports Betting Industry Gathers Pace
Delaware North is a global catering and hospitality company with 55,000 staff and annual revenue of more than $3.2 billion. It has a gaming and entertainment department that runs casinos and racetracks in West Virginia, New York, Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Arkansas. It has teamed up with white label sportsbook provider Miomni Gaming to power betlucky.com, and Delaware North and Miomni also hope to offer turnkey sports betting services for casino operators across the US as the industry gathers pace. “We are focused on delivering on the promise of integrated destination entertainment and convenience gaming,” said Woods. “The partnership with Miomni will allow us to serve a new market of casino operators anxious to benefit from gaming expansion cost-efficiently, while increasing the visibility of their brand, deepening their customer relationships and enhancing the quality of their service offerings.”
The US market is teeming with opportunity and it is easy to see why Delaware North wants to position itself as a supplier as well as an operator. Physical sportsbooks have started to spring up in Pennsylvania and mobile sports betting will soon be possible there. Just before Christmas, Washington, D.C. approved sports betting and that too will include online and brick and mortar wagers as it becomes the ninth US jurisdiction to offer sports betting. This industry is a juggernaut and many states feel they cannot afford to be left behind, so we are likely to see many more join the party in 2019.
Arkansas, Connecticut, Michigan and New York on the Brink
One state that is guaranteed to launch sports betting in 2019 is Arkansas. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in November that allows four casinos in the state to offer sports wagering. It is therefore a formality and there is little Governor Asa Hutchinson can do to stop it, despite his negative stance towards the industry. The Arkansas Racing Commission is bound to start accepting applications for sportsbooks no later than June 1 and it will spend the next few months devising a framework for a local market.
Lawmakers in Connecticut and New York are also hoping to roll out legal sports betting in 2019. Both states have pushed through legislation permitting sportsbooks to operate, but they are all struggling to put the necessary framework in place. New Yorkers voted in favour of sports betting all the way back in 2013, provided PASPA – the federal ban that outlawed sports wagering in every state apart from Nevada – was scrapped. The Supreme Court axed it in May, triggering the New York sports betting law, but NYS Gaming has dithered and allowed neighbouring states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania to steal a march on it.
Connecticut also authorized sports betting prior to the Supreme Court decision, but it has also struggled to make any progress towards implementing an actual industry. Michigan may well leapfrog both of them after passing an online gambling bill last month. That bill includes the phrase: “The division may permit internet gaming operators licensed by the division to accept internet wagers under this act on any amateur or professional sporting event or contest.” However, outgoing governor Rick Snyder vetoed the bill and that is likely to spark delays.
The Season for Sports Betting Bills
The season to be jolly is over. If months were people, December would be the hedonist, while January would be the accountant, presenting its bill. Now it is the season to get serious, make plans and take important decisions. Congress has just gone back into session and state legislatures throughout the country will now judder back to life. Legal sports betting will be on the agenda for many, and the likes of Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia are among the frontrunners to pass legislation this year.
Experts estimate that more than 10 states will legalise sports betting in 2019. “I expect legislation to be introduced in nearly every state, and half of those to actually legalise sports betting,” Walczak said. That would mean a few emerging from leftfield, but right now Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia look the most likely. The latter is under pressure to permit sports betting in order to prevent residents crossing over into West Virginia to spent their hard earned cash there. House Bill 1638 is underway and it seeks to repeal Virginia’s current ban on both sports betting and online lottery ticket sales.
The Domino Effect
Kentucky is to the west of West Virginia and it also wants to roll out sports betting, as two bills are up for consideration in 2019. A similar issue has arisen in Tennessee: a sportsbook has opened in northeast Mississippi and it is attracting people from Memphis to cross the border and bet there. It shares a long border with Kentucky and it needs to keep pace with its neighbours, and two pre-filed bills there would call for a measure to legalize sports betting be put to voters. Missouri is also in the same region and its lawmakers tried six different sports wagering bills in 2018. They flopped, but the appetite remains strong to bring sportsbooks to the state.
There is likely to be a domino effect across the country. Ohio borders Pennsylvania and West Virginia and its lawmakers will also be keen to bolster their own coffers rather than those of their neighbours. A bill called H714 is ready for potential deliberation once the 2019 legislative session begins. These are exciting times for anyone operating in the burgeoning US sports betting industry, and the market is sure to mushroom in the next 12 months. We will keep you abreast of developments each week, so be sure to keep visiting this page to learn more about it.