West Virginia To Offer Sports Betting By September

West Virginia To Offer Sports Betting By SeptemberAs one of the first states to formally legalize sports betting when the Supreme Court finally overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), West Virginia has been surprisingly slow to the starting line in terms of actually getting its sportsbooks opened to the public. However, West Virginia is on pace to offer sports betting by September, just in time for the start of the 2018-2019 NFL season.

Managed and overseen by the West Virginia Lottery, sports betting in the Mountain State is in a state of regulatory flux. While the WV Lottery plans out a comprehensive and long-term rubric to govern the industry, there are temporary provisions in place for the five physical WV venues that are likely to offer some sort of sports wagering product this year. These include the following:

  1. Each sports betting operator may use a temporary (or trial) sportsbook platform for up to nine months. This presumably allows both the state lottery and the gambling houses in question to refine exactly what later “official” sportsbook products are allowed to offer and how they are allowed to advertise.
  2. Sports wagering kiosks or video terminals are allowed to be employed at various locations. This is important, given that West Virginia has legally allowed for six state sports betting licenses. Remember, there are only five casino venues in the state, leaving one license left over. Most industry insiders believe that this extra license will be used by the WV Lottery itself. If so, this kiosk provision bodes well for the idea that sports wagering may be available at all WV locations where lottery tickets are sold. Short of online sports betting, this would immediately make West Virginia the national leader in sports wagering accessibility.
  3. Interim licenses are currently being issued, allowing WV casinos to operate sportsbooks both on-site and online for up to 270 days. This, like the trial sportsbook concept, is a stopgap to tide the state’s gambling industry over until such time that the WV Lottery finalizes its sports wagering guidelines.
  4. Any “unusual betting activity” must be reported to the WV Lottery immediately. These reports may also be sent to any forthcoming “accredited sports integrity entity,” though such a commission has yet to be created in the state. There are no hard and fast rules re what constitutes “unusual” or “suspicious” activity, of course, and this will be one of the primary challenges for the WV Lottery in finalizing the appropriate sports wagering regulations.
  5. For marketing purposes right off the hop, the WV Lottery has positioned itself as the gatekeeper for what is and isn’t allowed in advertising West Virginia’s sportsbooks. All sports wagering-related ads are to be approved by the West Virginia Lottery Director (currently Alan Larrick). Further, branding is also regulated, as sportsbooks may only have up to three different brand names for their related online platforms. Some in the industry refer to these as “skins,” and the rationale behind such a regulatory standpoint seems to be nebulous at best. (It is perhaps related to the idea that customers should be explicitly aware of the agencies with which they are doing business.)
  6. As in all other states with gambling and sports betting, all rules, wagers, and “responsible gaming” information is to be posted conspicuously in all locations where sports bets can or may be legally made.

How substantially these temporary regulations for sports betting in West Virginia will change going forward is not yet known, but – because the WV state legislature is allowing the WV Lottery to have full administrative control of such rules – the timeline for implementation is going to be comparatively brief compared against states that are seeking full legislative authority over sports betting. This model, from a “control” perspective, seems ideal, though it also seems to be the exception to the rule going forward.

Whatever the final outcome, of course, the fact that WV will have sports betting up and running in time for the September start of the NFL season is in line with most in-state gamblers’ “best case scenarios,” and that’s a very good thing.

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