Interesting fact about West Virginia: It is the only state which is a direct result of the Secession of the Southern States and the subsequent American Civil War. Before the commonwealth of Virginia broke away from the Union, many, particularly in the state’s northwest area, rallied against secession and broke away to form West Virginia. An autonomous government was formed in 1861 and within two years was made a state in the USA, thereby representing the quickest turnover from proposed formation to statehood in history.
One hundred fifty or so years later, West Virginia has an interesting relationship with its neighbor in which cultural matters and attitudes toward activities likesay gambling that are slightly similar yet ultimately quite different – Think New Hampshire/Vermont or Arizona/New Mexico.
Betting in West Virginia
Although the eighth item within West Virginia’s original code of laws enacted when the state entered the Union in 1863 illegalizes wagering on games of chance, laws and attitudes toward gambling have steadily eased since then, as state lawmakers have long realized the economic plusses certain forms of betting can bring to West Virginia coffers.
The Casino Club at The Greenbrier has been receiving celebrity visitors – including 26 U.S. presidents –and high-end tourism for nearly 100 years, and the state was among the United States’ earliest to legalize casino gaming and betting on simulcast races at the state’s horseracing tracks in the early 1990s. Table gaming was legalized in 2007, and daily fantasy sports was made legal in ’14.
Football in West Virginia
West Virginia hosts two “FBS” college football teams: The West Virginia Mountaineers and the Marhsall Thundering Herd. WVU started the college football tradition in the state back in 1891 and the team’s inaugural game, a 72-0 (!) loss to Washington & Jefferson. The inauspicious beginning belied the rich history to come; today WVU ranks 14th in all-time top-division NCAA wins.
The Mountaineers’ heyday is probably the Clarence Spears era of 1921-24, when the coach helped the team rack up a record of 30-6-3. In the modern era, the peak year for WVU football was definitely 2007. At one point ranked no. 1 in the country, the Mountaineers ended up ranked no. 6 after taking out the no. 3 Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl.
While the Thundering Herd has enjoyed moderate success, Marshall football well be known for the airplane crash of 1970 that wiped out 37 members of the squad until some major on-field success.
Second-division college football teams in West Virginia include the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets, West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcats, Shepherd University, Aidelson Broaddus University Rams, West Liberty Hilltoppers, Glenville State Pioneers, Fairmont State Fighting Falcons, and Charleston Golden Eagles.
As for NFL fandom, you bet (so to speak) West Virginians deviate from the Virginians, who tend to follow Washington football: West Virginia is hardcore Pittsburgh Steelers territory.
Naturally, a few indoor/arena league football teams have tried appealing to fans in West Virginia. In one, um, interesting move, Charles Town ostensibly stole away the American Indoor Football (IAF) franchise the Badgers from Fredricksburg, Virginia, for the 2013 season – but not one home game was played in either state during the two seasons of the team’s existence. Huntington was twice home for indoor football teams – the River Cities Locomotives (2001) and Huntington Heroes (2006-2008) – but a third attempt to bring a club there died on the table in 2009.
Betting on Football in West Virginia
As of this writing, traditional betting on football, i.e. through a bookmaker online or off-, is not allowed in West Virginia, though daily fantasy football betting is fine. However, with the state’s progressive attitude toward gambling in general since the days when pari-mutuel betting, West Virginia is set to become state no. 5 to introduce legalized betting on football.
Reported ESPN.com in August 2018, “West Virginia gaming officials announced the completion of sports betting regulations in June 2018. ‘Our goal is to be up and running by football season,’ said Danielle Boyd, managing general counsel for the West Virginia Lottery.” Nice.