West Virginia igaming bill heads to Governor

11 March 2019

West Virginia is just one step away from becoming the fifth state to legalise online gambling, with a bill currently awaiting Governor Jim Justice’s signature.

House Bill 2934, which was introduced by Delegate Jason Barrett on February 12, has been passed by both chambers of the West Virginia legislature. Having passed the House in February, it was then passed by the Senate on March 8, the second-last day of the 2019 regular session by a vote of 26 in favour, and seven against.

As a result of minor tweaks made in the upper chamber, it then returned to the House for final approval, which was secured on March 9, with 78 Delegates voting in favour, 18 against and four abstentions.

It now passes to the Governor for final ratification, though Justice can allow the bill to pass into law without his signature, as he did with the state’s sports betting regulations. Should it become law, West Virginia would join Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in regulating online gaming.

The bill, named the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, allows for five-year licences to be awarded to the state’s land-based casinos, at a cost of $250,000 (£192,600/€222,300), with igaming taxed at 15% of gross gaming revenue. Operators will be able to offer online poker, slots and table games.

The state’s land-based venues, Hollywood Casino, Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino, Delaware North’s Nitro and Wheeling properties and Justice’s Greenbrier resort, would be able to allow online-only brands to run as skins under their licences.

In related news, West Virginia’s only licensed online sports betting site, the Miomni-powered Delaware North-owned BetLucky brand, is currently offline. According to the West Virginia Lottery, this is due to a dispute between the operator’s sports betting solutions provider Miomni and a third-party vendor.

This has also resulted in land-based sports betting at Delaware North’s Mardi Gras Casino & Resort and Wheeling Island properties being shut down.

The lottery, which effectively acts as the regulator of gambling in the state, said it was monitoring the situation and was working with all parties to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

While West Virginia’s sports betting regulations allow for licensees to launch online services alongside land-based, Delaware North has been the only operator to move into the channel since the market opened on August 31, 2018.