West Virginia lawmakers launch new bid to regulate iGaming

11 January 2019

West Virginia may follow last year’s legalisation of online and land-based sports betting with the regulation of online poker and casino, should a new bill filed earlier this week pass into law.

Representatives Shawn Fluharty and Joe Canestraro have introduced House Bill 2178, which looks to amend the 1931 Code of West Virginia with a new article allowing for the legalisation of online gaming for players aged 21 and above.

The bill notes that legalisation of video lottery and table games had delivered substantial benefits to the state by providing financial support to West Virginia’s racing and agricultural industries.

“Developments in technology and recent legal decisions have created an opportunity to legalize interactive poker as a means to further enhance and complement the benefits delivered by casino gaming and licensed facilities to or for the benefit of the communities in which they operate,” it explains.

Regulation for iGaming will be entrusted to the West Virginia Lottery Commission, with only authorised gaming facilities and entities that have been granted racing licences from the state Racing Commission will be eligible for certification.

This would mean only five land-based venues would be able to apply for iGaming licences: Penn National’s Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races; Eldorado Resorts’ Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort; Delaware North’s Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island venues, and Casino Club at The Greenbrier, the private luxury resort owned by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice.

Each applicant would be required to pay a $50,000 (£39,100/€43,400) fee for their licence, as well as a 14% gross gaming revenue tax. None would be allowed to offer third party skins under their licence, with the bill stating that all iGaming offerings must be operated under the licensed entity’s own name and brands.

The proposal also sets out strict penalties for unlicensed gambling, with first-time offenders liable to be hit with a fine of up to $150,000, and a year in prison. Second offenders see the maximum fine jump to $300,000, with the potential prison term raised to three years.

Having been filed on January 9, the bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for further scrutiny, after which it will be passed to the House Finance Committee.

While previous attempts to regulate iGaming in West Virginia have failed in recent years, the state regulated sports betting last year, following the Supreme Court’s repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018.

The land-based wagering market opened in August 2018, when the first legal bets were placed at Penn National’s Hollywood Casino, with online wagering then going live late in December.