West Virginia became the fifth state to offer sports betting at land-based venues in August 2018, trailing only Nevada, Mississippi, New Jersey and Delaware.
Lawmakers in the Mountain State approved the activity in March 2018, regulators published rules following the Supreme Court ruling that struck down a federal ban in May, and the first sports book opened late in the summer.
“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 casino venues.
“We are eager to welcome people from throughout the state and the regions surrounding West Virginia to try a new experience at our casinos.”
West Virginia also became the third state with online sports betting in December 2018, offering competition to top offshore sites like Bovada. However, the BetLucky app ceased operations in early March 2019 and will not return, leaving WV sports betting without a state-regulated online option at the moment.
Betting Laws in West Virginia
More than 1.8 million people live in West Virginia, an eastern state in the tree-covered Appalachian Mountains. Charleston is the state capital and its largest city with almost 48,000 residents.
Gambling laws in West Virginia — whether it's horse racing at Mountaineer or the slots at the Mardi Gras casino — are regulated at the state level by the West Virginia Lottery Commission.
All legalized gambling in West Virginia is limited to the following areas:
- Casino gambling
- Sports betting
- Pari-mutuel wagering
- Daily fantasy betting
- Social gambling
- Charitable gambling
Gamblers in West Virginia must be 18 years old to play the lottery, bingo and pari-mutuel racing. Video lottery, casino gambling and sports betting have a minimum gambling age of 21 years old.
As West Virginia has no federally or state recognized tribes, it also has no Native American-owned casinos.
There is also a casino at the Greenbrier, an award-winning luxury resort located in the Allegheny Mountains near White Sulphur Springs.
Horse and dog racing
Greyhound racing in West Virginia at Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island is not self-sufficient. The industry receives a portion of the proceeds from casino gambling, making the dog industry a dying industry in the state. Hurting the cause is the fact that Florida's 11 remaining dog tracks will close in 2020.
Horse racing has a rich history in the state. Its two racetracks are home to graded stakes events, including the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer and the Charles Town Classic at the Charles Town venue. Racing started in 1933 and flourished with the implementation of casino-style gambling near the end of the century.
The West Virginia Lottery was established in 1984 through a state referendum. It offers scratch tickets and daily draw games and shares in multi-state drawings in Powerball, Hot Lotto and Mega Millions.
Jack Whittaker, arguably the most notable American lottery winner, won his then-record Powerball jackpot of about $315 million on a ticket bought in West Virginia for the Dec. 25, 2002 drawing.
West Virginia Sports Betting Laws
Despite the lawsuits between a few West Virginia casinos and third-party software providers, sports betting is legal within the state. The disappointing issue is that these same state casinos are missing out on huge betting events like March Madness and the Masters.
Three other casinos continue to operate sport books throughout the state, but Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island have typically made more from sports wagering than those other three combined. Also, none of the other three casinos have a way to bet from a smartphone.
It's a disappointing start for the industry in West Virginia. The state was set to launch after the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban in May 2018 that prohibited sports betting at land-based venues. Now, with surrounding states working on legislation and regulations to get up and running, this litigation may put a big dent in the state's sports betting industry and bottom line.
West Virginia sports books may not take action on high school sporting events. Esports betting is fair game, but only if all participants are at least 18 years old. Regulations do not impose any prohibitions on college sports betting, including on teams and events within the state.
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West Virginia's Favorite Sports Teams
The Mountain State does not have any professional sports teams of its own, but it is surrounded with major markets like New York and Philadelphia to the east, Pittsburgh and Cleveland to the north and Charlotte to the south.
West Virginia is a frenzied state for college football and basketball, but the closest professional teams are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who play in the AFC North in the NFL, and the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers, who play in the Eastern Conference in the NBA.