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West Virginia Quietly Becomes Fourth State to Launch Sports Betting

West Virginia quietly became the fourth state to launch legal sports betting after the US Supreme Court struck down in May a federal ban on wagering on professional and collegiate sports leagues.

Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, West Virginia accepted yesterday its first bet, thus soft-opening its sportsbook. The casino’s wagering facility is operated by the US division of British bookmaker William Hill.

House Delegate Jason Barrett put the first bet on Thursday to participate in a historic moment for the state’s and the US gambling industry. Delegate Barrett placed $50 on the West Virginia Mountaineers to win the football national championship. He will win nearly $3,000 if that happens. The state lawmaker told local media that it was extremely easy to bet and that it really reminded him of betting on horse racing.

The General Managing Counsel of the West Virginia Lottery, Danielle Boyd, has confirmed the opening of the state’s first sportsbook and has pointed out that the despite the facility’s grand opening on Saturday, it is “officially open” now.

Hollywood Casino, which is owned and operated by Penn National Gaming Inc., will host a larger-scale opening ceremony for its sportsbook tomorrow at 11 am local time. A mobile app that will allow the casino’s patrons to wager while at the property via their mobile phones is expected to be rolled out in the next couple of weeks.

Commenting on the launch of their sportsbook, Hollywood Casino Head of Sports Erich Zimny told local media on Thursday that they are happy that West Virginia has jumped on the betting bandwagon quickly and has thus secured a competitive edge over neighboring Maryland.

A bill allowing sports betting at Maryland’s gambling venues was introduced last year but was voted down by legislators. It is believed that it will be reintroduced next spring. If it gains the necessary support in the state Legislature, it will then have to survive a statewide referendum in order to be enacted.

Exemplary Regulatory Framework

West Virginia was actually among the states that passed a legislative framework ahead of the US Supreme Court ruling in May that allowed individual states to legalize sports betting, if they felt inclined to do so. This facilitated the early launch of sports betting services at the state’s existing gambling facilities.

Commenting on the state’s wagering regulatory framework, Delegate Barrett said that it should be model for the rest of the nation and that he believes they have done it right.

According to preliminary estimates by the West Virginia Legislature, the state’s sports betting industry would contribute additional revenue of around $5.5 million to the coffers during the first year. However, a separate, Lottery-commissioned study presented a much more optimistic picture for additional revenue of between $9 million and $17 million.

Five of the state’s casinos have lodged interest in operating sportsbooks. They were all required to pay a $100,000 licensing fee. In addition, they will have to contribute a 10% tax on adjusted gross sports wagering receipts.

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