West Virginia Governor allows igaming bill to pass into law

28 March 2019

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice appears to have let a bill allowing the state’s land-based casinos to launch online gaming to pass into law without signing the legislation.

While the West Virginia legislature has marked House Bill 2934 as ‘pending’, the bill’s lead sponsor Delegate Jason Barrett has announced that it has completed the process, with the state becoming the fourth to legalise igaming in the US.

With the bill ratified by both chambers of the state legislature by March 9 - the final day of the 2019 regular session - it then passed to Justice to be signed into law. The Governor had 15 days to ratify the bill, veto it or allow it to pass into law without his approval.

As with West Virginia’s sports betting legislation, he took no action, allowing it to become law.

HB2934, or the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, will make five-year licences available to the state’s five land-based casinos. It sets out a licence fee of $250,000 (£190,088/$220,140), with a $100,000 renewal fee to extend approval for a further five years.

The state’s five venues - Hollywood Casino, Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino, Delaware North’s Nitro and Wheeling properties and Governor Justice’s Greenbrier resort - can partner managed service providers and allow online operators to run skins as sub-licensees. These companies require a management services provider licence, which comes with a $100,000 annual fee.

Suppliers, those providing equipment, system, or services to power B2C igaming offerings, must pay $10,000 for a licence, which also must be renewed annually at a cost of $10,000.

Online gaming will be taxed at 15% of gross gaming revenue, with tax to be deposited in the West Virginia Interactive Gaming Fund, created through HB2934. Each month, 15% of money in the fund will be returned to the West Virginia Lottery Commission to cover operations and administrative expenses, with 0.25% going to the pension plan for employees of licensed wagering associations. The remaining money will then be passed to the State Lottery Fund.

While there is no indication as to when a licensing process for igaming will begin, West Virginia has become the fourth state to legalise online gaming, after Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and the fifth to permit online poker, after those states and Nevada.

It comes against a backdrop of uncertainty for West Virginia’s online sports betting offering, with the one app to launch - Delaware North’s BetLucky brand - offline since March 6. This has also seen the land-based sports books at the operator’s properties in Nitro and Wheeling temporarily shuttered.

This stems from an infringement dispute between two of its sports betting technology suppliers, Miomni Gaming and Enterg Software Solutions.