NBA Expansion Could Have Massive Impact on West Virginia Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
NBA Expansion Could Have Massive Impact on West Virginia Sports Betting

Developments in the West Virginia sports betting arena are few and far between these days. That’s what happens when you’re a veteran of the industry, and The Mountain State was among the first in the country to make the transition. 

The United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in the spring of 2018. A few months later, in the summer of 2018, sports betting in West Virginia was rolled out to the masses. 

Since then, updates and developments have emerged on a relatively small scale. Recently, certain lawmakers proposed a bill that would dramatically impact West Virginia sports betting. But even that initiative, which aimed to tamp down aggressive and dangerous social media reactions to failed wagers, stretched the boundaries of a major development. 

For the most part, West Virginia sports gambling discussions have focused on the ebbs and flows of tax revenue. The state has also, of course, dealt with a handful of gambling policy violations from players and employees at the college level. Beyond that, the future of sports betting in The Mountain State is considered stable—consistent, predictable, subject to minor shifts, but nothing major. 

And yet, believe it or not, the National Basketball Association could inject major waves into West Virginia’s sports betting market over the next couple of years. Allow us to explain why.

West Virginia Could Get an NBA Team Soon…Sort Of

West Virginia currently isn’t home to any professional sports franchises. Collegiate sports are their bread and butter—specifically, college football and college basketball. When it comes to pro basketball, in particular, residents are most likely to follow and root for teams in nearby markets. This list includes, but is by no means limited to, the Boston Celtics (Massachusetts), Washington Wizards (Washington D.C.), Philadelphia 76ers (Pennsylvania), Memphis Grizzlies (Tennessee) and Charlotte Hornets (North Carolina)

However, as the NBA continues to seriously explore adding up to two expansion teams, West Virginia may be on the verge of getting an organization that is far more local. And just so there isn’t any confusion: No, West Virginia is not getting an NBA expansion team. But Virginia, their most direct neighbor, might be. 

Multiple sources around the NBA have confirmed that Virginia Beach is on the list of locations being considered for an East Coast franchise. Nothing, obviously, is guaranteed. Many around the league have also confirmed West Coast expansion is the priority. The Pacific and Mountain Time zones may be in line to get both expansion organizations in certain scenarios. 

Nevertheless, Virginia Beach is also under heavy consideration. Heck, they already came close to adding an NBA team. Back when the Sacramento Kings looked like they were leaving their market, Virginia Beach was tapped as one of the two most likely destinations. (Seattle was the other.) As the Associated Press’ explained at the time:

The Virginia Beach metropolitan area is one of the largest in the country without a major professional sports team, and numerous attempts to lure one here have repeatedly left sports fans in the area disappointed. The area's most recent flirtation with the NBA was rebuffed just last year after a deal to get the Sacramento Kings to relocate fell apart when plans to build them an arena and pay for their moving expenses didn't come to fruition, among other reasons. But rather than be jaded, hope springs eternal in Virginia's largest city that one day an NBA or NHL team will call the region home…The Hampton Roads region of Virginia has about 1.7 million people with no natural allegiance to any one basketball or hockey team that boosters say makes it an attractive market for an expansion franchise or relocation.”

Here’s How Virginia Getting an NBA Franchise Could Impact West Virginia Sports Betting

Many will point out that Virginia isn’t West Virginia. That’s true. But their proximity to one another means that West Virginia residents would invariably root for a Virginia NBA franchise. 

Indeed, this proximity is actually part of the appeal when discussing the NBA’s expansion to a 31st and 32nd franchise. On its own, West Virginia is not a massive market. The Mountain State’s population checks in at around 1.8 million. But if you take that number on to Virginia’s population of 8.7 million, you’re working with a targeted market of over 10 million people. That’s large enough for a top-10 demographic in the country.

Skeptics will wonder whether West Virginia sports betting would really enjoy a bump from a Virginia NBA franchise. That’s fair. But the absence of another pro team, across any sport, pretty much guarantees the state’s sports fandom population would flock toward a more local basketball option. And sure, NBA betting isn’t nearly as lucrative as betting on the NFL But betting on basketball isn’t a financial afterthought, either. It’s on the same level as betting on college football. (West Virginia already has an elite college football team in-market.) In fact, according to a study conducted by Variety magazine in January 2023, online sportsbooks in the United States reported that betting odds on the NBA generated more money than any sport or league other than the NFL

Some of that cash flow is bound to come from West Virginia if their most direct neighbor gets a pro basketball franchise. Consider sports betting in Delaware. Like West Virginia, they don’t have any professional sports teams in-market. Yet, they have averaged over $10 million in sports betting tax revenue per year since 2018, despite having a much smaller population. Their proximity to other pro franchises drives that number.

Make no mistake, it isn’t just the NBA. Delaware is near pro sports franchises in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., etc. But it’s the same story with West Virginia. Those same markets are driving their own sports betting totals. If and when another hyper-local pro sports franchise joins the fold, The Mountain State’s betting handle and, by extension, revenue is bound to skyrocket. All that’s left to see is whether that franchise actually arrives. NBA expansion is universally considered inevitable. Its end destination is not. But it absolutely matters that, at this moment, Virginia (and, in turn, West Virginia) seems like one of the top five options.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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