Update: Hollywood Casino opened its sportsbook ahead of schedule on Thursday, August 30, at 11 a.m.
This Saturday, September 1, at 3:30 p.m. ET, the 17th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers football team will host Tennessee at the exact same time that Huntington, West Virginia-based Marshall University kicks off its season with a trip to Miami (Ohio).
Not coincidentally, the first legal sports bet in West Virginia will be placed that same day.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races obtained the state’s first sports betting license on August 10, and just over three weeks later, the Penn National property will be ready to take bets. West Virginia’s other four casinos will be watching from the sidelines as “The Mountain State” officially becomes the fifth state — following Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Mississippi — to offer legal, regulated sports wagering.
A celebrity comes to Hollywood
The opening ceremonies take place at 11 a.m. Saturday with a special guest on hand, one who makes for strong synergy with a football-centric sports betting launch.
We are proud to announce the grand opening of The Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on Saturday, Sept. 1. Former professional football player, Joe Theismann, will join us in the festivities that day! @Theismann7 @HollywoodCCTR pic.twitter.com/VMvpzDoHF0
— Hollywood Casino (@HollywoodCCTR) August 22, 2018
Super Bowl XVII winning Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann will preside over the festivities, but don’t expect a drawn-out affair — after the 11 a.m. start to the ceremonies, there will be a rush to get bets in before college games start at noon.
The sportsbook will be operated by William Hill, the London-based bookmaking company that runs three books in Nevada and both the Monmouth Park Racetrack and Ocean Resort Casino sportsbooks in New Jersey.
At Charles Town, the physical sportsbook will feature nine betting stations and more than 30 big-screen TVs.
More about the casino
Hollywood Casino is located near Harper’s Ferry, about an hour from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and it’s West Virginia’s largest casino. In a state with a population of only 1.8 million — some 11 million less than neighboring Pennsylvania — Hollywood puts up relatively robust numbers.
In the most recent fiscal year, Hollywood Casino reported slots revenue of $297.7 million from 2,357 slot machines and table-game revenue of $65.5 million across 93 tables. The leaders in Pennsylvania are Sands ($302 million in slots, $235 million in table games) and Parx ($400 million in slots, $185 million in table games), so while Hollywood is clearly a tier below that, the disparity isn’t overwhelming.
And sports betting should be a nice addition at Hollywood, especially while casinos in nearby Pennsylvania and Maryland don’t offer it.
What about the other WV properties?
Danielle Boyd, managing general counsel for the West Virginia Lottery, told USBets on the day Hollywood Casino received its sports betting license that “we’re hoping that the rest of the casinos will be up and running by early or mid September, and all of them will be accepting wagers by the middle of October.”
There was optimism back in June, when the West Virginia Lottery first allowed casinos in the state to apply for licenses, that all five properties would have their sportsbooks up and running in time for football. Instead, The Greenbrier, Mardi Gras Casino and Resort, Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, and Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack are all lagging behind. Here’s what we know about each:
- The Greenbrier: partnered with FanDuel Sportsbook (which also operates at The Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey); has secured an interim license.
- Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island: both owned by Delaware North; applied for licensure; no sportsbook partners announced yet.
- Mountaineer: hasn’t applied for a sports betting license yet, but is expected to soon; there’s speculation that the book will be run by William Hill.
Is The Mountain State going mobile?
Sports betting is a relatively small part of casino revenue — just look at Nevada, where in 2017, sports books accounted for $248.7 million in net wins and slots generated $3.1 billion.
That said, sports betting is great for generating foot traffic for other forms of gambling. And then there’s the mobile option, undoubtedly the wave of the future in legal U.S. sports wagering. All indications out of West Virginia are that the casinos plan to offer online betting. Operators are openly talking about in-play betting, a feature that doesn’t really apply to the brick-and-mortar windows.
There’s no publicly stated time frame yet, though. West Virginia is in one-step-at-a-time mode for now, focused on getting Saturday’s launch at Hollywood off without a hitch before the local college football teams run out of their respective tunnels.