Just after 11:00 a.m. local time, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races accepted the first legal sports wager in West Virginia history.
The news was announced via Twitter by representatives for the West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC), which oversees the state’s regulated sports betting industry. Back in early March, state lawmakers approved a measure allowing for legal sportsbooks – provided the federal ban known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 was amended or repealed.
Two months later, on May 14, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in a case involving New Jersey’s own efforts to legalize the industry. When the Court’s 6-3 decision found the PASPA – which precluded any state but Nevada to authorize sports betting legislation – to be an unconstitutional restriction on states’ rights, West Virginia was free to put the previously passed law into practice.
The WVLC approved the state’s first two licensed sportsbook operators last month, with Hollywood Casino parent company Penn National Gaming joining daily fantasy sports (DFS) operator FanDuel in securing early entry.
But it was the Hollywood-branded “racino” in Charles Town that won the first-to-market race, making West Virginia the fourth state – along with Delaware, New Jersey, and Mississippi – to accept legal wagers since the PASPA was rescinded.
In comments made to local news outlet The Inter-Mountain, Eric Zimny – vice president of racing operations for Hollywood Casino Charles Town – said launching in time for the NCAA and NFL football seasons was a priority for the venue:
“We wanted to open by football season. You got to do it right.”
Scott Saunders – general manager at Hollywood Casino Charles Town – issued a statement expressing surprise that West Virginia had finally joined the Silver State in operating legal sportsbooks:
“I’ve seen a lot of changes in my 26 years in the business.
I never thought I’d see sports betting outside of the state of Nevada.”
Danielle Boyd – managing general counsel for the WVLC – followed up on her announcement tweet with a short statement confirming the agency’s excitement about a new era in West Virginia gaming:
“We are pumped! It’s been a long road.”
The state’s first legal bet – a $50 futures ticket at 60 to 1 odds on the hometown West Virginia University Mountaineers to win the college football national championship – was just the first of many to come over opening weekend.
Following a soft opening period spanning August 30-31, the Hollywood Casino Charles Town sportsbook officially opened to the public on Saturday – just in time for the first week of NCAA football action.
And by the time Sunday night saw betting windows close to conclude opening weekend, the venue had taken in approximately $640,000 in wagers. Of that amount, 50 percent was paid back to bettors who held winning tickets, leaving Hollywood Casino Charles Town with $320,000 in revenue.
Zimny appeared on the MetroNews “Talkline” program to discuss the state’s tax haul from opening weekend:
“The taxable revenue produced off of this was about $32,000, a tax rate of 10 percent.
There was $320,000 in cash, more cash taken in than paid out.”
Predictably in a haven for college football, the sport accounted for $340,000 of the total wagers placed.
And as Zimny told the Dominion Post, the arrival of the NFL regular season this week is expected to inflate those numbers even further:
“Whether that is 50 percent (more), 80 percent, 100 percent, 200 percent, that’s hard to say.
That’s really when sports betting really kicks into high gear when you’ve got the full slate of college Saturday, the full slate of NFL on Sunday, that’s when seasonality really hits its peak.”