Whether it’s been hiring and training new employees, testing software or making everything “just so,” it’s been a busy few weeks at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. The casino is set to be the first in West Virginia to open for sports betting. The sportsbook will open Saturday, the first day of the first full weekend of the college football season.
NFL legend Joe Theismann will place the state’s first bet, following in the footsteps of Dr. J in New Jersey and Willis McGahee in Mississippi. The plan is for an “opening ceremony” at the sportsbook at 11 a.m., followed by the first bet.
We are proud to announce the grand opening of The Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on Saturday, Sept. 1. Former professional football player, Joe Theismann, will join us in the festivities that day! @Theismann7@HollywoodCCTRpic.twitter.com/VMvpzDoHF0
The goal had been for all five of West Virginia’s sportsbooks to open simultaneously, but only the Hollywood Casino is ready and as such will go down in the history books as accepting the first legal sports bet in the history of the Mountaineer State.
First Weekend of WV Sports Betting Promises to Be Hectic. William Hill Will Operate WV’s First Sportsbook at the Hollywood Casino.
West Virginia becomes the fourth state since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May to open for sports betting. Delaware was the first in mid-June, followed by New Jersey and Mississippi. Pennsylvania and Rhode Island also have legal sports betting. Pennsylvania approved its temporary regulations earlier this month, and has yet to approve any sports betting licenses, while Rhode Island sportsbooks are expected to open for business later this fall.
The Hollywood Casino is a Penn National-owned casino/resort that is joining forces with William Hill to operate the fully regulated sports betting market under the auspices of the West Virginia Lottery.
The sportsbook will feature nine betting stations and dozens of wide-screen televisions. The race to open has been frenzied and exciting.
“I can’t tell you how many calls and questions I’ve gotten about the sportsbook, when it’s going to open,” Erich Zimny, vice president for racing and sporting operations at Hollywood, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail earlier this week. “It’s nice to have this amount of buzz and excitement going on.”
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The FanDuel Group has moved closer to opening up a sportsbook in a second state, as its management services provider interim license was granted on Friday by the West Virginia Lottery Commission, managing general counsel Danielle Boyd told Sports Handle.
In late June, FanDuel CEO Matt King announced a partnership between FanDuel and The Greenbrier Resort in Sulphur Springs, W.Va., which will have the DFS-turned-sports betting operator install a FanDuel Sportsbook at the resort.
The Greenbrier itself has not yet received its operator license, though. The Lottery Commission advised all five of its eligible licensees to submit a letter requesting the operator license with a $100,000 licensure fee, but so far The Hollywood Casinois the only one to have done so, receiving its operator license on Friday and becoming the first casino to claim one, Boyd confirmed.
FanDuel Sportsbook On Track For WV Sports Betting as William Hill And Penn National Gaming Teaming Up There, Too.
“We had hoped everyone would launch at the same time and everyone would be up at the beginning of football season,” Boyd said in a Monday appearance on MetroNews’ “Sportsline” program, per MetroNews. “As we move forward, it appears that we’re going to have sort of a phased launch and it’s going to be a tiered approach. We’re just really excited to see that Charles Town will be ready to launch by Sept. 1.”
How long until Greenbrier’s FanDuel Sportsbook cuts a ribbon will debut is guesswork at this point, but certainly the property has to get its operator license first, which should shouldn’t take too much longer than it takes to write a $100,000 check.
FanDuel, now owned by Ireland-based bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair, began cutting its sports betting teeth at the Meadowlands Racetrack in northern New Jersey in mid-July. The sportsbook has not yet released a mobile app or web-based betting platform in New Jersey, while its rival and one-time merger partner DraftKings launched the first New Jersey mobile sportsbook on Monday, beating a host of others to the punch.
As in New Jersey, when the FanDuel sportsbook does go mobile in West Virginia, patrons will have the ability to register and deposit into accounts remotely, so long as they’re inside the state’s borders.
Last Friday, bookmaker William Hill announced a big-time entry into Mississippi, while also teasing a partnership in West Virginia plus a much greater one that would put it all over the U.S. map.
While neither William Hill or the Wyomissing, Penn.-based Penn National Gaming (PNG) has yet confirmed a partnership to have William Hill running the sportsbook at the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, multiple sources have indicated it’s a deal.
“We are now the early market leader in New Jersey where our mobile app will launch within weeks and we expect to be a market leader in Mississippi with these 11 casino agreements,” said William Hill CEO Philip Bowcock. “The team continues to engage in discussions that cover a further 14 states and they are doing a tremendous job.”
In light of the deal in West Virginia and Bowcock’s remarks, the most logical way to get to 14 is via PNG, which is in the process of acquiring Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., which adds Iowa, Louisiana and Colorado to PNG’s map.
Ohio state senator John Eklund (R-District 18) had an “aha! moment” with regards to sports betting earlier this year.
“At one point, I may have had a preconceived notion” about what sports betting in Ohio would look like, Eklund said. “Like who is going to regulate and what will the tax rate be, but there is much more to this than that.
“The reason we have a placeholder bill is the more I realized the multifaceted nature of this. There are so many permutations on the theme, it starts to boggle a little. We do a lot of legislation that has that kind of feel and flavor to it. … But there are too many people with big brains out there for me to say that I have the answer.”
Lawmakers Aim to Bring Together Interested Parties and Hash Out What Ohio Sports Betting Will Look Like.
And so it was that Eklund, along with Democratic counterpart Sean O’Brien (District 32), introduced a one-line placeholder bill, SB 316, in July, with the intention of starting the sports betting conversation in the Buckeye State. Eklund is hoping that conversation will begin in earnest later this month, after meetings to identify key players.
“Broadly speaking, what I am pursuing is an effort to convene a series of interested party meetings to, well, rather than go after this in a scattershot action, get them to focus on what’s important to them,” he said. “It wouldn’t be the kind of deal where we’d have to rent out Jacobs Stadium or anything, it would be smaller, where we could start taking people’s pulses, getting people’s ideas.”
The ultimate goal would be to narrow the focus enough to then schedule hearings in the General Assembly to flesh out what sports betting should look like and “craft something with more meat on the bones that we can vote on when we get back after the November elections.”
In the meantime, Ohio has to contend with the idea that it is surrounded by states that have either already made sports betting legal or are actively trying to. Both neighbors Pennsylvania and West Virginia legalized sports betting in the last 12 months, with the Mountaineer State set to see the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races take the state’s first legal wager before Sept. 1.
Kentucky currently has a sports betting working group exploring what sports wagering in the Bluegrass State might look like, while Michigan and Indiana both had sports betting bills in their respective legislatures earlier this year. It’s likely that Michigan lawmakers will move forward with legislation in the fall when they return from their summer recess.
Ohio Is Surrounded By States, Including Pennsylvania and West Virginia, That Have Legalized Sports Betting or Are on the Cusp of Doing So.
Eklund would like for Ohio to do the same thing.
“The idea is, let’s get some of the wrangling and some of that research and some of that opinionating that gets done first and then we’ll have the legislative hearings,” he said. “Does that mean we’ll have a bill that comes out of the Ohio State Senate by the end of the year? I don’t know, but I am hopeful that by the end of the year or the beginning of next year, that we can move forward.”
So, logistically, what will sports betting in Ohio look like? That’s an open question. The state currently has four commercial casinos and seven racinos. It does not have Indian gaming or Tribal-State compacts to negotiate, which ought to make the process of legalizing sports wagering a bit simpler. The state lottery – a potential governing body for sports betting – also already allows Keno in bars and retail locations. So, among the myriad details, lawmakers will have to determine the “where” when it comes to sports betting.
They’ll also have to figure a tax rate and other fees. Ohio lawmakers have gotten a little education by watching the action next door in Pennsylvania. The state legislature there set the tax rate of 34 percent plus a 2 percent local tax and even as the gaming control board has rolled out temporary rules, not a single operator has yet filed an application for sports betting. The law also calls for a $10 million application fee.
Buckeye State Lawmakers Have Learned From Pennsylvania That High Tax Rates Don’t Fly, But Haven’t Set a Sports Betting Tax Rate as Yet.
“I can tell you that everything I’ve seen shows me that the Pennsylvania rate is extraordinarily high and probably counterproductive,” Eklund said. “On the low end, it would go toward prognosticating about what the level of participation would be” at different tax rates.
Another key piece to any sports betting legislation is sorting out mobile and online betting. Eklund is not opposed to either, saying “we all have to recognize at a very fundamental level that the mobile economy and the number of people who live and die with a 3 x 6, half-inch thick device welding to their hand is absolutely incredible.” But he didn’t have an idea of how mobile betting might play out.
All in all, Buckeye State lawmakers appear to be preparing to go to school. And when it comes to sports betting, there is plenty to learn.
In a week of too much news to digest, William Hill US announced on Friday that it has signed partnership agreements with 11 Mississippi casinos for sports betting risk-management and technology services, with deals in the works in West Virginia and another that “would cover a further 14 US states.”
From the release:
Subject to regulatory approvals, William Hill will provide sports betting risk management services and its proprietary technology for both retail and on-premises mobile sports betting to the following casinos: Hard Rock Casino Hotel & Casino Biloxi, Island View Casino Resort (Gulfport), Palace Casino (Biloxi), Treasure Bay Casino (Biloxi) and WaterView Casino (Vicksburg), in addition to six other casinos in Mississippi. All properties are expected to be live by the end of August pending granting of licenses.
(And also, MGM’s Beau Rivage (Biloxi) and Gold Strike (Tunica) debuted the first Mississippi sportsbooks on Wednesday, August 2.)
William Hill hit the ground running in the post-PASPA world on June 7 as the Delaware Lottery’s sports betting partner via its agreement with Scientific Games. Three racinos took wagers and registered a $330,000 handle on Day 1 with just baseball and some World Cup on the menu.
“We are now the early market leader in New Jersey where our mobile app will launch within weeks and we expect to be market leader in Mississippi with these eleven casino agreements,” said William Hill CEO Philip Bowcock. “The team continue to engage in discussions that cover a further fourteen states and they are doing a tremendous job.”
The company currently operates about 105 sportsbooks locations throughout Nevada. More from Friday’s news release:
In West Virginia, William Hill will provide retail and mobile/online sports betting to a soon-to-be-announced casino partner. William Hill US is also in advanced discussions with operators about deals that cover casinos in a further fourteen states in the US about similar sports betting agreements.
The deals further expand William Hill’s US presence, which already includes sports betting operations in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey and a race book in Iowa. William Hill has also combined forces with IGT for the Rhode Island Lottery Sports Betting RFP. If IGT is awarded the contract, William Hill will supply its operational expertise, risk management, and trading data to support the operation of sports betting in the state.
Previously in West Virginia, the Greenbrier Resort announced a deal with FanDuel. Each of Penn National Gaming, Eldorado Resorts and Delaware North own three of the other four casinos to be licensed for sports betting in the Mountaineer State.
Those greater referenced negotiations (regarding 14 states) are likely with a regional casino operator such as Penn National Gaming and/or others.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.