New Emails Explain the West Virginia Political Betting Kerfuffle

In West Virginia, political betting was introduced by surprise last week but canceled only an hour after the regulatory go-ahead. This minor regulatory hiccup gave bettors hopes that they would be able to place bets on a new market but snuffed them out shortly after.

Political Betting Throws a Curveball in WV

West Virginia bookies were allowed to offer political betting markets briefly last week, The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register found out, sharing leaked emails, but this permission was rescinded an hour after it had been granted.  

Upon conducting closer research, GamblingNews found the exchanges between lottery officials and sportsbooks representatives available on Document Cloud, and specifically one addressed to the West Virginia Lottery by Erich Zimmy, Vice President of Racing & Sports Operations at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, currently in partnership with DraftKings.  

“Submitting this request for an offering separately since it’s a little different than the draft one, but both us and DraftKings would like to explore the possibility of offering political props on major elections markets.”

The email was addressed to David Bradley, who is currently sitting as the Deputy Director of Security at the state lottery.  

Put simply, the sportsbooks asked for a permission to launch political betting markets, in a bid to boost their revenue and bring some of the offshore political betting activity back to the United States.

Upon returning Mr. Zimmy’s email, Mr. Bradley explained that the West Virginia Lottery had discussed the possibility of approving political betting. He replied similarly to Fan Duel Director of Risk and Trading, John Sheeran.

Receiving the Go Ahead to Host Political Betting

Later the same day, April 7, DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM all received a go-ahead to proceed with political betting in a bid to fill up the vacuum left by the suspension of all sports event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As it turned out, however, somebody “had jumped the gun.” FanDuel didn’t wait for the minutiae to be sorted out, unsuspecting of the abrupt volte-face the lottery was about to make, and the sportsbook released an official press statement in which it outlined the latest partnership with the West Virginia Lottery to offer legal political betting along with the necessary protections to keep bettors’ dollar safe and contests fair.

Not everyone reacted kindly to the decision, it seemed. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice is the owner of The Greenbrier, or at least his family is. Yet, this hasn’t stopped the governor from protesting against the authorization of political betting. Gov. Justice described the situation as “humorous,” among other things.

DraftKings and BetMGM couldn’t set up their own betting nor publicize the matter in the short window of opportunity they had, leaving FanDuel as the only sportsbook that had to clear up the confusion.

FanDuel simply rescinded the original press release, taking it off their newsroom and issuing a statement in which they explained that while the West Virginia Lottery had approved political betting, the regulator had asked FanDuel to refrain from publishing any political betting markets for the time being.

FanDuel also sought assistance from the West Virginia Lottery about two bets that had been placed on political markets.

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