CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s first online sports betting and mobile app launched Thursday, while sportsbooks at casinos near Charleston and Wheeling opened for business.
Those physically within the Mountain State can go to www.BetLucky.com and download the app to place their wagers, according to a news release from Delaware North, an international hospitality firm that operates casinos in West Virginia.
Sports betting market entrances from Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Cross Lanes and the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack add to the current total of five sports betting locales in the state.
“Our patrons are going to enjoy these spaces in the casinos and everything else we have to offer in terms of hospitality and entertainment,” said Kim Florence, regional president and general manager for both Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras. “We are eager to welcome people from throughout the state and the regions surrounding West Virginia to try a new experience at our casinos.”
Delaware North operates the two new sports betting casinos. The three others have yet to launch their betting apps, although DraftK ings Inc. announced earlier this month it has signed a licensing agreement with Penn National to provide Hollywood Casino, in Charles Town, its sports betting app.
As noted in the release, the launch came ahead of a big sports weekend, including Friday’s Camping World Bowl game between West Virginia University and Syracuse.
Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, called the news “excellent” Thursday evening, although he cautioned that neighboring states and Washington, D.C., are advancing toward creating similar programs of their own, which could cut into West Virginia’s revenue share. At that, he said he hopes other West Virginia casinos get their apps off the ground soon.
“We’re going to see this happening quickly, the sooner we can get our apps much the better off we’re going to be,” he said.
Both Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras casinos were tentatively scheduled to launch by the end of September, though Delaware North requested a delay for unspecified reasons.
Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation into law earlier this year to legalize sports betting. That state law, however, needed and received a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in May to strike down a federal law banning the practice in most of the U.S.
When the bill passed, however, “integrity fees,” or a share of sports betting profits to professional sports leagues to protect the integrity of their games, prompted a whole new battle involving lawmakers, lobbyists and state officials.
Though the Legislature voted down an amendment that would have mandated the integrity fees, the leagues made a push to reinstate the fees via the rules process. However, the state Lottery Commission ultimately nixed the proposals, resisting pressure from Justice and the leagues.
“We are eager to welcome people from throughout the state and the regions surrounding West Virginia to try a new experience at our casinos.”
Kim Florence regional president and general manager for both Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras