Last we checked in on West Virginia sports betting, Governor Jim Justice forced a meeting between professional and collegiate sports leagues and team representatives, lawmakers, lobbyists and an intern on a power trip. It was quite a show.
But the real work is underway as the West Virginia Lottery is polishing rules and regulations for legal WV sports betting, as permitted by the West Virginia Lottery Sports Wagering Act that passed in March (SB 415).
To get some insight on where the Lottery is at with respect to those rules, and when West Virginians and neighbors can head to a facility to make a wager, Sports Handle caught up with General Counsel for Lottery, Danielle Boyd, Esq. (Note: this interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)
WV Sports Betting Rules and Regulations Almost Complete, Lottery General Counsel Says Casinos Should Be Ready For Football Season.
Sports Handle (SH): How are things coming along for the West Virginia Lottery and the plan to roll out sports betting?
Danielle Boyd (DB): We’re progressing here pretty well. Actually we had our last meeting with the casinos two weeks ago today. We hashed out the “priority issues” and got everybody’s feedback. Then we sent out a request for comment and writing, giving the casinos the opportunity to formally submit any points they wanted to make, or any policy considerations that they wanted us to have when making our final decisions.
We got those responses last week and we’ve reviewed them and we are in the process of compiling our legislative rules, which will be granted emergency status. We are hoping to have those [on Tuesday] if possible, but in the next couple days for sure.
SH: Are all five of the casino/racetrack properties pretty much at the same place? Might one or some begin operating sooner than others?
DB: It’s unclear at this time and it think that any specifics about where those properties stand would probably be best addressed by John Cavacini, president of the West Virginia Racing and Gaming Association. But our goal is still to have everybody up and running by football season.
SH: Including college football as well, so roughly late August?
DB: September 1 at the very latest.
SH: What have been the top challenges for your team as you go through this process of implementing new regulations?
DB: It’s a different animal than anything that we’ve dealt with before and so knowing that, we’ve tried to surround ourselves with the best and the brightest consultants. One of the challenges has been making sure that we have the legislative rules we need, but avoiding ones we don’t. So we’ll need some flexibility.
We do have “emergency status” until early December as far as these legislative rules are concerned. So we can change them, we can add to them if we need to until December, but after that point, they would have to go through the legislative rule making process.
SH: Can you explain some of the new technologies that you guys are implementing and the mobile element for sports betting?
DB: Sure. This is our first dip in the pool of mobile or online. Currently, we do not have iGaming in West Virginia and we haven’t shifted to doing online sales for our traditional products yet. We’re hoping all that will come in the near future, but this is a new venture for us into this area of online and mobile, so we’re learning the different technologies and system integrations. We certainly want to make sure that we have the data and the access and the reportings to ensure that we can properly regulate the sports betting at all five casinos.
SH: Will mobile be available for patrons immediately or will there be a 30- or however-many-day window before casinos can offer that?
DB: Our goal is to ultimately offer both those products and roll them out at the same time. But if it would come to a point where land-based operations were ready to launch and mobile was not, that would be a consideration that we would make. I think it’s too early for us to tell at this point, but certainly we want to make sure that we’re not hindering the casinos in getting up and running with whatever they can offer, as soon as they can offer it, but the goal is that both of the land based and mobile or online would launch at the same time.
SH: Can you give any insights into any physical spaces or sports betting lounges that may be getting built?
DB: All five of the properties are planning to build or are getting ready to begin construction of sportsbook lounges on their property. As for the sizes of those, I don’t know any specifics at this point, but that will be something that will be in the works and hopefully construction will be up and running pretty quickly.
We’re also going allow them to construct temporary facilities so that if their lounges aren’t quite ready for when they can begin accepting wagers by mid-August, we’ll go ahead and approve temporary specifications so that they can begin offering sports betting on premises.
SH: As far as the re-negotiation of the law and that meeting that occurred in May, has that ship sailed or is there still pressure to bring parties back to the table?
DB: As far as we’re aware, the negotiations between the casinos and the leagues will continue but it will not be at a state level. It will be on working on exchanging value for value through a commercial agreement between the two parties.
SH: Anything you’d like to add as far as what’s going on and what patrons can expect and the roll out in general?
DB: We’re really excited about the opportunity to start accepting wagers as soon as possible. We’re excited to see West Virginia out in front for once and we’re hoping to really capitalize on the knowledge and experience of the partners that we’re working with, both at the casino level and also the consultants we’ve brought here to West Virginia to make sure we get the best model and the best structure in place. We’re excited for everybody to capitalize on the revenue opportunities and also so that we can drive traffic into the state and our facilities.