West Virginia Preps for Launch of Sports Betting

CHARLESTON — Staff and leaders at the West Virginia Lottery Commission are ready for the first sports bets to be placed Saturday at Hollywood Casino in Charles Town.

The West Virginia Lottery Commission held a meeting Tuesday at its offices in Charleston to approve a working document of internal minimum control standards.

Danielle Boyd, legal counsel for the Lottery, spoke to the commissioners by phone from Charles Town. Lottery and casino staff were making last-minute preparations and testing systems as Hollywood is set to become the first casino in the state to have sports betting.

Boyd told commissioners that internal minimum control standards — which will govern the technical, administrative and accounting procedures — would need to be approved with the understanding that they’ll likely need to be updated as other casinos come online throughout the fall.

“Our plan was to keep working on this, as we might have to add to it,” Boyd said. “At some point we’ll get a final document and go through the steps like we do now for table games where the casinos will request an individual change as needed or as desired. Right now, we’re working on the universal document that all the casinos will abide by.”

The Legislature passed March 3 the West Virginia Lottery Sports Wagering Act in anticipation of a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing sports betting. That decision came in May, giving West Virginia a head start for implementing sports betting ahead of surrounding states.

The commission released July 9 emergency rules for sports betting to allow the state’s five casinos to set up sports betting in time for football season. Then, the commission filed rules for a 30-day public comment period, which ends Sept. 9.

The Sports Wagering Act empower the Lottery to “establish and approve minimum internal control standards proposed by licensed operators for administration of sports wagering operations, wagering equipment and systems or other items used to conduct sports wagering, as well as maintenance of financial records and other required records.”

David Bradley, deputy director of table games, told commissioners that sports betting internal controls would operate similarly to how table games are regulated.

“What we’ve done so far is send this document out to the casinos and asked them for their internal controls,” Bradley said. “We’ve been reviewing all their internal controls to see if they meet the standard we’ve set forth. As we’re getting them up and running, there may be something that we have to type up or something we have to take a second look at.”

West Virginia’s internal minimum control standards were based closely on standards in place in New Jersey and Nevada, which already has decades of experience with sports betting.

“We didn’t try to recreate the wheel, we tried to take a look at what is out there and what’s been working in the industry,” Bradley said. “We tried to get feedback from a lot of other jurisdictions that are working on their regs and vendors that are in the business.”

While Hollywood will be the first casino to test how sports betting will go, people who want to place a bet will have to go there in person. Boyd told commissioners that Hollywood is still 30 to 60 days out from setting up its sports betting phone app. Testing and auditing will continue before Hollywood opens the doors for sports betting.

It will be up to casinos whether to put a time frame on when people can place sports wagers or stay open 24 hours. In the case of Hollywood, it will require at least two hours of down time to process daily transactions. Casinos also would set their own odds based on wagers made.

Lottery commissioners also were told sports betting won’t require additional staff to be hired. Staff that monitors table games can handle sports betting for now, though the commission might have to hire additional staff in the future.

“The commission is tasked with approving the internal control standards,” said Kenneth Greear, chairman of the Lottery Commission. “As we see the opportunity to modify those once we have approved them, then logic would tell you that there would be some flexibility that the Lottery would have to implement those until such time the as the Lottery goes through the approval process in the final stage.”

“We have no problem with that, and as we get involved and see what happens, if there are any changes we’ll certainly keep the commission up-to-date on any changes,” said Lottery Director Alan Larrick.

Other casinos could be set up for sports betting during the next 30 to 60 days.

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