Sports Betting Takes Off In West Virginia

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Like many states in the U.S. West Virginia uses gambling proceeds to supplement the state's budget. There are penalties for running unregistered lotteries, placing a bet at or keeping an registered casino game table or slot machine and unauthorized animal races of fights. The state does however license several dog and horse racing tracks, limited non-casino related machines and 5 casinos. Whereas the available casinos have generated hundreds of millions of dollars for West Virginia since 1994 when first authorized, there has been interest for some time in adding sports betting to the list of authorized gaming activities. With a recent Supreme Court decision that is now a reality for citizens and visitors alike.

In its first weekend of operation after approval by the legislature and courts this addition to gambling activities provided an estimated $325,000 in taxable revenues, based on an estimated total wagering of $600,000 in betting activity. The state is expecting an additional $16 million in annual sports gaming revenue to add to public funds. Nearby states are looking to also capitalize on adding sports books to their legalized activities.

The sports betting law has taken the state beyond the traditional horse and dog racing to provide for betting on all sporting activities, including basketball, baseball, football, tennis and other events. Auto racing is expected to be a favorite for wagerers. NFL and college games have already shown popularity with West Virginia teams expected to be a big draw as evidenced on the activity for the West Virginia-Tennessee game recently.

West Virginia looks to make increased revenues from sports gaming and hopes to make up for losses suffered when a casino opened in nearby Baltimore. By authorizing the new gaming option in the state, the legislature expects the state will add over 600 new jobs in sports wagering throughout the state, greatly needed to combat the higher unemployment rates plaguing West Virginia. The increased tax revenues from the gaming activity and tax revenue, savings in unemployment and income generated from the increase in jobs will allow the state to continue to provide residents with the quality services expected.

The Sports book at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races was the first to add sports gaming in their facilities, kicking off just in time for the start of football season. The general manager, Scott Saunders stated he never expected to see sports betting allowed beyond Nevada and is excited at the opportunities this expansion will bring. He explained that there will even be a mobile app coming soon. The opportunities for West Virginia are expanding.

When interviewed, State Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, expressed his approval for the state's forwarding thinking move to pass legislation authoring legalized sports gaming prior to the Supreme Court ruling regarding sports wagering in the United States. That foresight has allowed the state to become involved in sports betting opportunities from the beginning. Blair stated that several professional sports representatives approached West Virginia seeking what they termed integrity fees for the various sporting leagues but stated that will not happen.

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