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Update on Sports Betting in West Virginia,
Mississippi,
and Rhode Island

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

Back in May of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal ban on sports gambling was unconstitutional. This ruling was in response to New Jersey’s long battle to legalize betting on MLB, NFL, NBA, and the NHL. New Jersey held a referendum on the matter in 2011 and sports betting was legalized in the state in 2014. However, the federal law prevented sportsbooks from opening up. The May decision to lift the sports betting ban has led to several sportsbooks opening up in the Garden State.

But New Jersey isn’t the only state to jump on the legalized sports betting bandwagon. Delaware and Mississippi are allowing sportsbooks to accept wagers while West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New York are making preparations to join the fun. While several states including Idaho, Florida, Texas, and Washington State aren’t showing any signs of legalizing sports betting, Ohio, Montana, Oregon, California, and South Carolina are a few of the states that appear to be actively moving closer to it. It’s also unlikely that Utah will be allowing sports wagering as the state’s anti-gambling position is in the state’s constitution. Here are some quick updates from West Virginia, Mississippi, and Rhode Island.

West Virginia

On Monday, August 13th, the West Virginia Lottery Commission announced that the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town has been issued their license and are expected to start accepting sports wagers on September 1st ... just a few days before the NFL kicks off their regular season. The casino still has to install their betting software and train employees.

Danielle Boyd, who is the West Virginia Lottery Commission’s legal counsel said that two other casinos are preparing to launch sports betting operations and they should be ready to go in early September. For the time being, Boyd says the state should have a monopoly on sports betting. She predicts that sportsbooks and casinos will attract tourists to the state and lead people to visit restaurants and stay in the region’s hotels. All of West Virginia’s five casinos are expected to have their sportsbooks operating before the end of September.

There was a bit of a delay in getting approval for sports betting in West Virginia when the Governor’s Office took 18 days to review proposed emergency rules. Governor Jim Justice triggered a bit of controversy when he proposed adding integrity fees that would be paid to professional sports leagues even though the legislature had rejected them.

John Cavanci is the president of the West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association, and he says all casinos have either signed or are presently negotiating contracts with companies that will operate the sports betting operations in their establishments. Sports betting licenses for casinos will have a yearly fee of $100,000.

Mississippi

Things are heating up in Mississippi where two of the state’s 12 land-based casinos are already accepting sports bets. The other ten casinos are frantically racing to start taking sports bets by Labor Day. The Mississippi Gaming Commission met this week to devaluate SBTech who was selected to operate the sportsbooks at the Golden Nugget, and Casino Biloxi. William Hill is also seeking approval to operate sportsbooks at Hard Rock, Palace and Treasure Bay in Biloxi, as well as Island View in Gulfport and Hancock County’s Silver Slipper.

Hard Rock’s general manager, Todd Raziano says that he hopes to have his casino’s sports betting operation set up in the next couple of weeks to get a jump on the NFL regular season. IP Casino’s general manager Duncan McKenzie points out that Mississippi is the only southern state to offer legalized sports betting and this should be the case for a while. The state’s casinos and sportsbooks will likely be able to draw gambling enthusiasts from neighboring states.

It is estimated that Mississippi casinos haul in about $352 million per year in state and local taxes along with about $323 in federal taxes. It’s not known precisely how much revenue the state will generate from legalized sports betting but the American Gaming Association claims that around $150 billion is illegally wagered in the United States every year. With more states legalizing sports wagering, that figure is sure to decrease.

Rhode Island

The tiniest state in New England became the first in the region to legalize sports gambling, but the state will be getting a massive chunk of the profits. 51 percent of sports betting revenues will go into state coffers to help cover the cost critical services like roads and education. Unlike other states that have legalized sports betting, Rhode Island is only allowing sports wagering in two casinos. The state will not be offering online or mobile wagering either. Still, the state predicts that sports gambling will generate approximately $23.5 million per year with 51% of that going to the state. That $23.5 million is already a part of the 2019 budget.

Rhode Island’s sports betting technology will be provided by International Game Technology PLC who will receive 32% of the revenues while the casinos will get to keep the other 17%. Rhode Island Lottery will operate the sports betting in the state, but the sportsbooks aren’t expected to start accepting wagers until the fall.

While Rhode Island definitely has an advantage at the moment, if other neighboring states legalize sports betting then the state might find themselves lagging behind. That will be especially true if and when other states offer internet and mobile betting platforms. It is also worth mentioning that such a high tax rate could hamper competitiveness. Still, the state stands by their cautious approach to sports betting, claiming such an approach will help them avoid pitfalls.

Rhode Island was the third state to legalize gambling behind New Jersey and Delaware following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to lift the federal ban on sports gambling.

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