State of the union: West Virginia, New York and more

4 April 2019

This week’s State of the Union, in partnership with Segev LLP, reports on West Virginia Governor Jim Justice allowing igaming regulation to pass into law, an update on the New York budget, and new bills in Indiana and Louisiana.

Justice allows WV gaming bill to pass into law
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has let a bill allowing the state’s land-based casinos to launch online gaming to pass into law without signing the legislation.

While the West Virginia legislature has marked House Bill 2934 as ‘pending’, the bill’s lead sponsor Delegate Jason Barrett has announced that it has completed the process, with the state becoming the fourth to legalise igaming in the US.

With the bill ratified by both chambers of the state legislature by March 9 - the final day of the 2019 regular session - it then passed to Justice to be signed into law. The Governor had 15 days to ratify the bill, veto it or allow it to pass into law without his approval.

As with West Virginia’s sports betting legislation, he took no action, allowing it to become law.

HB2934, or the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, will make five-year licences available to the state’s five land-based casinos. It sets out a licence fee of $250,000 (£190,088/$220,140), with a $100,000 renewal fee to extend approval for a further five years.

Mobile wagering fails to make NY budget

New York lawmakers have opted to omit mobile sports betting from the state’s FY 2020 budget, but have included a number of reforms and initiatives for other forms of gambling.

Agreed upon by Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders in the state, the budget sets out spending plans for $175.5bn (£134.6bn/€156.7bn) for the next 12 months.

However, the approved budget does not include any language related to mobile sports betting, despite Senator Joseph Addabbo's efforts to have it included in the final document. 

The state will still move ahead with plans to regulate in-person wagering, with preliminary talks on sports betting regulations held in January and an initial list of regulations for the market published later that month.

Lawmakers in the state now have until the end of the legislative session in June to push through online and mobile wagering legislation. Addabbo has already filed S00017, which sets out an 8.5% gross revenue tax rate, with the bill currently being scrutinised by the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

Mobile and league data elements removed from Indiana bill
Indiana’s House Public Policy Committee has approved a bill that would legalise sports betting in the state, though only after amending the legislation to remove language permitting mobile wagering.

Senate Bill 552 passed the Committee by an unanimous vote of 12-0 and will now move forward to the House Ways and Means Committee for further discussions.

However, the Public Policy Committee only gave its approval to the bill having made a series of amendments, including the removal of language that would have permitted mobile sports betting in Indiana.

The Committee also agreed to remove a requirement for casinos in the state to use official league data for in-play wagering.

Louisiana bill proposes parish-by-parish approach
Lawmakers in Louisiana are to consider a new bill that would allow for the legalisation of mobile and land-based sports betting on a parish-by-parish basis.

SB153, also known as the Louisiana Sports Wagering Control Act, would permit sports wagering at horse racing tracks, casinos and riverboats in the US state.

All facilities would first need to obtain a sports betting certificate in order to offer such services to consumers, with the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to oversee the market.

However, the bill does not go into detail as to how much these licences would cost or the level of tax licensees would have to pay.

The bill would permit land-based wagering via machines, kiosks and designated windows as well as mobile betting on site at a licensed facility. Consumers would first be required to register in-person at the site in order to play on mobile.

Sports betting bill filed in Alabama
An Alabama lawmaker has filed a new bill that would legalise sports betting at licensed land-based facilities in the state, as well as on approved mobile and digital platforms.

Introduced by Representatives Mike Rogers and Mary Moore, HB315 sets out proposals to permit betting on professional and collegiate sports events, as well as create the Alabama Sports Wagering Commission to regulate the market.

The bill, also known as the Alabama Sports Wagering Act, would enable the new Commission to award up to seven sports betting licences to venues where pari-mutuel wagering is authorised.

Operators would be required to pay a $100,000 (£75,800/€89,100) fee for the licence, which would each run for a period of five years.

Delaware North drops Miomni

Casino operator Delaware North has terminated its sports betting contract with Miomni Gaming in West Virginia after a disruption to land-based, online and mobile wagering services in the state.

Delaware North’s BetLucky brand has been offline since March 6, while the land-based sportsbooks at its properties in Nitro and Wheeling have both been closed.

Miomni had been overseeing the running these operations under a management services deal agreed with Delaware North in October. However, an infringement dispute with fellow sports betting technology supplier Enterg Software Solutions has hit the services.

West Virginia Lottery director John Myers confirmed that Delaware North will now seek a new partner, but warned that it may be some time before the sports betting services return to normal.

Delaware betting and gaming market struggles in February
Delaware’s legal sports wagering market suffered further setbacks in February as licensed operators generated total revenue of just $22,152 (£16,809/€19,696) for the month.

The figure is significantly down from the $1.4m in revenue posted in January, with stakes also dropping from $11.9m to $8.49m in the month ended February 24, according to the figures from the Delaware Lottery.

Meanwhile, the Delaware Lottery has also reported a month-on-month drop in online revenue for February, falling from $279,541 in January to $274,692.

This decline comes despite higher spend by consumers, with the total of $9.02m significantly up on $7.42m in January. However, punters won more in February, taking home $8.77m compared to $7.17m in the previous month.

Nevada sees February handle hit $458.6m
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has reported an 11.5% year-on-year rise in sports betting handle for February, though the state also saw gaming revenue across all verticals decline marginally for the month.

For the sports betting vertical, February win soared 235.1% to $35.8m (£27.5m/€31.9m), with operator win percentage for the month standing at 7.8%. This suggests that total amounts wagered reached $458.6m, a significant improvement on February 2018’s $411.2m handle and the state’s highest February total to date.

William Hill seals NHL deal

The William Hill US arm of bookmaker William Hill has agreed a new partnership with North America’s NHL ice hockey league.

Terms of the strategic partnership agreement were not disclosed, but it has been confirmed that William Hill will serve as an official sports betting partner of the NHL.

William Hill will receive promotional media in relevant NHL markets and also be able to leverage branding opportunities in connection with the league’s major events.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the new deal further demonstrates the league’s “innovative yet practical approach” to the expanding, regulated sports betting market in the US.

RI sportsbook market posts loss for February
Rhode Island has posted a loss of $890,623 (£682,455/€795,218) on legal sports betting for February, with an increase in handle offset by higher player winnings.

Consumers wagered $20.7m (£15.8m/€18.5m) on sports during the month - an increase on January's $19.1m handle - but enjoyed a higher win rate, taking home $21.6m in winnings.

As a result the state posted a loss for February, the first time it has posted a negative result since legal sports betting launched in November last year.

The Twin River casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton are the only facilities licensed to accept legal sports wagers in the state, with betting limited to land-based only in the first four months of full market regulation under laws passed last June.

Twin River’s Lincoln casino took $16.6m in wagers during February. However, a win rate of $17.6m saw the venue make a loss of $908,264 for the month.

In contrast, the Tiverton property only took $4.03m in sports wagers during the course of the month, but as customers only won $4.02m, the property was able to post revenue of $17,641.

Gambling.com Group cleared for revenue share application
Affiliate marketing giant Gambling.com Group has been cleared to apply for an Ancillary Casino Service Industry Enterprise License in New Jersey, allowing it to strike revenue share partnerships with operators in the state.

With the business approved to apply for the licence by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, it can now move forward with plans to expand the range of partnerships it can offer licensed betting and gaming operators.

Previously, as a licensed vendor in the state, the business could strike deals through which it was paid a flat fee for driving traffic to operator sites, such as cost per click (CPC) and cost per view (CPV) agreements.