CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two days before the deadline, the West Virginia Lottery Commission filed legislative rules for public comment with the Secretary of State’s Office regarding sports betting.
The filing starts the public comment period and also allows racetracks and casinos to begin the process of setting up its sports betting operations.
“If they were ready to open today and they had all their systems in place, we would certainly have to do some testing, but we would be ready to take bets as that testing would conclude,” said Danielle Boyd, managing legal counsel for the state Lottery Commission. “If it’s the on-property testing, we anticipate that will anticipate only a few days to complete.”
The state Lottery Commission passed an emergency rule earlier this summer. If the commission had not filed a notice before Wednesday, sports betting would not have been allowed in West Virginia until March 2019.
According to the notice of public comment period, the state Lottery Commission estimates the financial impact of the law will be at least $5.5 million in the 2019 fiscal year.
Boyd, appearing on MetroNews “Sportsline,” said the Hollywood Casino & Inn at Charles Town Races will be the first site in operation, with additional casinos and racetracks to be added during this fall’s football season.
“We had hoped everyone would launch at the same time and everyone would be up at the beginning of football season,” she said. “As we move forward, it appears that we’re going to have sort of a phased launch and it’s going to be a tiered approach. We’re just really excited to see that Charles Town will be ready to launch by Sept. 1.”
Boyd said the commission’s biggest challenge will be setting up mobile and online betting services. Under the state law, patrons can place bets through phone apps if they are in the state of West Virginia.
“The technology for mobile and online is new to us in West Virginia,” she said. “We’re starting from square one, whereas New Jersey already had online casinos in place, online poker and other casino-style games.”
New Jersey, who successfully fought before the Supreme Court to allow states to have sports betting laws, was the third state to legalize sports betting behind Nevada and Delaware.
Boyd said the state Lottery Commission reached out to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to better understand online betting, adding she hopes to create a network of states with legalized betting.
“We’ve been reaching out to our counterparts in Mississippi, our counterparts in Nevada and Delaware and any other jurisdictions that come on board,” she said. “We’re building a coalition to share information, share licensing information and also share any reporting of suspicious betting or other anomalies that might indicate there’s suspicious activity taking place.”
Boyd said training at the Hollywood Casino & Inn at Charles Town Races will take place in the last week of August. State employees will be on hand to assist staff in understanding the law.