This past holiday weekend marked the beginning of legal sports gambling for West Virginia. A total of $320,631.70 in taxable revenue was made from bets wagered, according to the West Virginia Lottery.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races was the first to begin legal sports betting. Other venues will follow suit in mid- to late September, West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association President John Cavacini said.
He said an uptick in wagers placed can be expected this weekend, when the professional football season starts.
“Widely available legalized sports betting means big money for sports leagues like the NFL,” said Sara Slane, of the American Gaming Association.
The National Football League’s annual revenue may increase by $2.3 billion a year because of widely legalized sports betting, according to a new Nielsen Sports study commissioned by the AGA.
The Mountain State could benefit, too. West Virginia will bring in $16 million from sports betting tax revenue and that legal sports betting will create 595 jobs, according to the AGA.
In addition to providing tax revenue, legalized betting could affect other sectors, as well, Slane said. She said about 70 percent of the people placing bets in West Virginia came from out of state.
“It’s no longer a competition among the casino operators, but the states to be the first market and driving those customers to West Virginia,” Slane said.
West Virginia has an advantage, because neighboring states aren’t taking up the issue, and Pennsylvania has a significantly higher tax, Cavacini said. This will bring people across state lines so they can bet legally.
“That’s what happened when we introduced slots and table games, because none of the other states had it,” Cavacini said. “For many years, we benefited from that.”
He added that he thinks, at some point, neighboring states will legalize sports betting.
“But for now, we have a free run at it,” Cavacini said.
He said he anticipates revenue to increase once mobile apps for betting are up and running. This means people won’t have to go to a race track or casino to place a bet, they can do it anywhere within the state from a smartphone.
In some states with legalized sports betting, mobile betting is still illegal. For instance, in Mississippi, gambling is permitted only in brick-and-mortar locations.
Slane said mobile apps aren’t a bad idea. She said that, broadly speaking, mobile platforms and interstate platforms make sense, to shut down the illegal market.
She said it’s ultimately the responsibility of each jurisdiction to regulate sports betting.
“A one-size-fits-all federal framework doesn’t work,” Slane said. “Each jurisdiction’s gaming laws are unique, and sports betting is no different.”