Online Casinos and Poker Legalized in West Virginia

West Virginia has legalized online casinos and poker sites after Governor Jim Justice allowed HB 2934 to pass into law without his signature yesterday. With this new law, West Virginia becomes the third state in the US with a regulated online gaming industry encompassing the full range of sports betting, casino games and poker.

With Governor Justice opting not to sign the bill, the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act (HB 2934) is now backdated as having become law on March 9th. The law takes effect 90 days after passage, which puts June 7th, 2019 as the date the Act officially takes effect.

The passage of this law makes West Virginia:

  • The fifth jurisdiction with mobile sports betting (behind NV, NJ, PA and DC)
  • The fifth state with online poker (behind NJ, NV, DE and PA)
  • The fourth state with online casinos (behind NJ, DE and PA)

Looking at the West Virginia Online Gambling Bill

The WV Lottery Interactive Wagering Act authorizes each of the state’s four racetrack casinos plus the Casino Club at the Greenbrier to apply for licenses to offer online gambling.

Under the law, the WV Lottery Commission is tasked with overseeing all online gambling activities and for adopting regulations to govern the industry. This is the same approach the state takes to regulating in-person and mobile sports betting under a law approved last year.

Key provisions found in the law include:

  • 15% tax rate
  • 21 to gamble online
  • Approved types of online gaming include: “computerized or virtual versions of any game of chance or digital simulation thereof, including, but not limited to, casino themed slot simulations, table games, and other games approved by the commission”
  • WV casinos may partner with third-party software providers to operate online gambling
  • Law does not state whether or not each casino will be allowed to operate multiple skins (for reference, the sports betting law allows each casino to operate up to three individually-branded betting sites)
  • Law calls on the WV Lottery Commission to review laws implemented in other states for reference in crafting WV online gambling regulations
  • WV Lottery Commission to determine games allowed to be offered online, maximum wagers, types of records that need to be kept by operators and whether or not customers may use credit to deposit
  • Casinos to pay a $250,000 licensing fee
  • Online gambling licenses to be renewed every five years for $100,000
  • Advertising affiliates who participate in revenue-sharing agreements with casinos shall also be licensed in WV
  • The WV Lottery Commission may enter agreements with other states that also have regulated online gambling (important for online poker as this provision allows the state to join multi-state poker networks)

Likely Players in WV Online Gambling

All five of West Virginia’s casinos are authorized for sports betting and all five will almost certainly expand their offerings to offer online gambling with the passage of this new law.

Each WV casino is partnered with one major online gaming provider, and those existing partnerships are likely to be expanded to take advantage of the new opportunity. What remains to be seen is whether or not each casino will be permitted to run multiple gaming sites.

In the meantime, we can speculate each land-based casino will at the very least run one online casino in conjunction with its current service provider:

  • Hollywood Casino with William Hill
  • Casino Club at the Greenbrier with FanDuel
  • Mountaineer Casino with William Hill
  • Wheeling Island with Miomni*
  • Mardi Gras with Miomni*

*The future prospects of Miomni in West Virginia are uncertain at this point after an interruption in service caused by an unspecified dispute between Miomni and one of its own service providers – more on that below.

What This All Means and What Happens Next

To summarize today’s story, West Virginia has formally legalized online casino games and poker. The law that has been approved appears conducive to a competitive industry with reasonable taxes and licensing fees.

If the WV Lottery Commission passes regulations allowing each land-based casino to operate up to three individual gambling and poker sites (which seems likely given that’s the approach it took with sports betting), that means WV customers may one day have their choice between as many as fifteen unique gambling sites that all compete against one another.

The WV Lottery Commission will now get busy drafting regulations to govern the industry before the first online casinos go live. EGR North America reports the goal is for the first WV gambling sites to go live by mid-2020.

It will be particularly interesting to see if the WV Lottery Commission comes up with any regulations tailor designed to mitigate the risks of a bad rollout as has happened with BetLucky WV.

Wheeling Island, Mardi Gras and BetLucky WV suddenly stopped taking wagers earlier this month with little information given to customers. It has since come to light the issue stems from a contract dispute between Miomni, which powers retail betting at both casinos and mobile betting through BetLucky, and a third-party services provider.

The WV Lottery Commission, BetLucky, Delaware North (parent company of Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras) and Miomni have been criticized for not only the disruption of service, but also for their lack of response to inquiries.