West Virginia advances igaming bill with tax amendment

20 February 2019

The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee has advanced a bill that would legalise online gambling activities in the state, with an amendment requiring operators to pay a higher rate of tax than originally proposed.

Tabled earlier this month, the new West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act would allow for legal, online poker, slots, table games and other services at select venue across West Virginia.

The bill, also known as H 2934, proposed to tax licence-holders at a rate of 10% of adjusted gross interactive wagering receipts on a weekly basis. However, this has now been increased to 15% as a result of the amendment.

The rest of the bill advanced unchanged, with operational licences to offer such services set to cost $250,000 (£192,000/€220,600). Licences would run for five years and require a renewal fee of $100,000.

The state’s four racetrack casinos - Hollywood Casino, Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino and Delaware North’s properties in Nitro and Wheeling - as well as the Greenbrier resort, are the only venues that would able to apply for one of these licences.

However, the bill intends to open up the market to more brands with a number of other licences.

A management service provider licence would allow licence-holders to work with a separate entity to offer online gaming. These one-year licences would cost $100,000, with an annual renewal fee of $100,000.

Meanwhile, a supplier licence would permit the holder to sell or lease interactive wagering equipment, systems or similar gaming items. Valid for one year, these licences would cost $10,000, plus an annual renewal fee of $10,000.

In addition, anyone employed to be engaged directly with igaming would need to secure an occupational licence for $100, the cost of which could be covered by the person’s employer.

The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act will now move forward to a finance committee hearing for further consideration.

Much of the language in the bill is similar to that of the state’s new sports betting laws. Since last August, consumers have been able to place bets in-person, and this was extended in December to allow for online wagering.

H 2934 is one of a number of bills currently up for consideration in the state after Representatives Shawn Fluharty and Joe Canestraro last month also introduced House Bill 2178, seeking to amend the 1931 Code of West Virginia to legalise igaming for players aged 21 and above.

Image: Christopher Ziemnowicz