CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Now that sports betting is up and running in West Virginia, will you place a wager?
A majority of West Virginians, 57 percent, say they are “not likely at all” to bet on sports events, according to the latest MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll.
Another 18 percent described themselves as “not very likely” to gamble on games, while 15 percent said they are “somewhat likely” and 7 percent are “very likely.” An additional 3 percent were not sure.
Pollster Rex Repass, who designed the West Virginia Poll, said many of those who responded may be playing down their interest.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that a majority will be avid betters, but more may be interested than are willing to publicly admit it.
“I think their claim that they haven’t, nor will they, is not completely accurate,” Repass said. “The reason I say that is having done some other gaming related research in the past we know when you ask specifically about sports betting, consumers understate their past habits and future habits.
“We know frequency of lottery play, keno play, other gaming play and my expectation is, as popular as college and professional sports are, is that percentage of the population who are wagering will be higher.”
Sports betting had a soft debut this week at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Jefferson County.
That casino is the first of five in West Virginia to get sports betting online.
The official start to sports betting was to be at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Hollywood Casino before college football games begin at noon.
Former Washington Redskins quarterback and commentator Joe Theismann was scheduled to be the guest of honor for the debut.
“We wanted to be ready for the start of football season, and it just so happens that WVU versus Tennessee is that day at 3:30 — and people will be able to come out to our track and place a bet on that game,” said Eric Schippers, senior vice president of government relations for Penn National Gaming, the owners and operators of the Charles Town Race Track and Hollywood Casino.
The legislature passed the sports betting bill in anticipation of the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court would rule that states would be allowed to establish sports betting. The Court did so in May.
A legislative estimate predicts additional revenue to the state of $5.5 million the first year. But a study commissioned by the state Lottery predicted revenue two to three times higher, at $9 million to $17 million.
West Virginia charged $100,000 licensing fees to the five casinos that will offer sports betting. There’s a 10 percent tax on adjusted gross receipts.
Schippers said sports betting will add to the entertainment options already in place at the casinos.
“It’s an amenity. It’s a really nice thing to have to draw people out to our facility and give them another reason to come out and spend the night with us, but it’s not going in any way to replace the value and importance of the slot machines, the table games, our exciting live racing,” said Schippers, speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
The West Virginia Poll shows that few West Virginians have been avid betters on sports events to this point.
Sixty-six percent say they have not ever placed a bet on a sports event, according to the West Virginia Poll.
Thirty-four percent say they have bet on sports events.
Betting may occur in the sports book lounges on site at West Virginia’s five casinos. But those who want to wager also may use apps associated with the casinos. Bets on apps don’t have to be placed on casino property but they do have to be within state boundaries.
The convenience may also encourage more activity, Repass said.
“Ease and access are factors in any decision,” he said.
The West Virginia Poll surveyed 404 people likely registered voters from all 55 counties.
The survey was conducted between Aug.16-26. There’s a margin of error of 4.9 percent.