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Bill Sponsor Says West Virginia Sports Betting Expansion Likely Dead

A conversation to expand the West Virginia sports betting market started this session. The effort likely is dead in the water though.

Sen. Mike Maroney feels West Virginia is missing out on potential revenue by keeping WV sportsbooks tethered to casinos. Maroney’s proposal evolved from untethering sportsbook licenses to a complex bill largely aimed at helping the state’s small businesses.

“I want as many skins out there as possible,” Maroney told LSR. “Why should a state like us, we have a lottery; BetMGM, FanDuel, why should we force them through a third party when all they’re doing is skimming the money off the top.”

Maroney’s SB 603 passed the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday and heads to the Senate floor next. He doesn’t have high hopes.

“I thought it (had a chance) initially,” Maroney said. “It doesn’t have a chance. I am grateful of the Senate leadership just to allow me to get the message out. It’s not going anywhere this session … I just wanted to get it on an agenda and start the conversation.”

West Virginia sports betting landscape

Current legislation allows the five casinos in the state to partner with up to three skins each.

There are five sportsbooks with market access in West Virginia:

The Mountaineer Casino has an exclusivity contract limiting it to just William Hill.

Only The Greenbrier has more than one skin, tied to FanDuel and BetMGM. Mardi Gras Casino and Wheeling Island both use Betly Sportsbook after their well-publicized debacle with the BetLucky platform backed by Miomni and EnterG.

Since launching in September 2018, West Virginia sportsbooks have handled more than $776.2 million in wagers and generated more than $59.5 million in sports betting revenue and $5.9 million in taxes. The state went months without an online betting option following the Delaware North situation in 2019.

Recent success with iGaming by BetMGM and DraftKings could attract more operators to the Mountaineer State.

West Virginia small businesses want into sports betting

Maroney said the bill aims to help the state’s small businesses struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve lost so much money here, hundreds of millions of dollars,” Maroney said during Wednesday’s committee meeting. “This is a slap in the face to every small business in West Virginia.”

Maroney believes there should be more skins live in West Virginia, not tethered to the racetracks and casinos. The language in the bill, however, appears rather limiting in that mission:

“‘New market entrant’ means a provider of sports wagering that (i) is not licensed to participate in sports wagering in any other jurisdiction; (ii) is not controlled, as control is defined in §29-22D-5(c) of this code, or owned, in whole or in part, by any person or entity that is licensed to participate in sports wagering in any other jurisdiction; and (iii) has had pending with the commission an unapproved management services provider license application for at least one year prior to the effective date of this enactment.”

The new entries would pay far less in license fees: $10,000 rather than $100,000 every five years.

SB 603 would allow bars and restaurants to get a piece of the action, through companies like West Virginia-based PropMe, a peer-to-peer betting platform with a revenue-sharing model.

WV racetracks and casinos not having it

West Virginia Racing and Gaming Association president John Cavacini stood up against the bill in the committee. He said the experience of companies like FanDuel and DraftKings is why those companies are better partners than local “new market entries.”

“It is bad legislation. One of the requirements to be a small business is you have to have not operated any gaming in any jurisdiction. How does that help the state of West Virginia?”

Cavacini also said there are more than enough sportsbooks already for the state’s 1.8 million people — an addressable market he said to be approximately 1 million.

John Myers, director of the West Virginia Lottery, believes the legislation “would be relatively neutral.”

Maroney said “the other side” is why the “new market entry” definition made it into the bill. He believes it ultimately would allow casinos to add an additional skin to their license.

“The initial bill was untethered skins, just let anyone get a skin if they want, it’s a free market. Because of the power and influence of big corporations, that got squashed.”

Esports gets some play

The updated bill would legalize esports betting at West Virginia sportsbooks. The state does not currently accept esports bets.

Bettors could place wagers on popular official esports leagues. That include games like League of Legends and CS:GO.

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