Comparing and Contrasting Gambling Laws Between West Virginia and Pennsylvania

West Virginia and Pennsylvania State Seals on the Scales of Justice

If you find yourself at one of the casinos in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, chances are you’ll probably venture off into Western Pennsylvania to see what they have to offer.

However, there are some slight differences in gambling laws between the States of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. So, if you’re unsure of these laws, this article will help you sort through the gray areas and provide some understanding as to why specific gaming can or can’t be done across state lines.

You can also use this post as a reference if you’re passing through West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.  Or if you are just going on a good old casino tour that may involve casinos like Mountaineer and Wheeling Island (West Virginia) before you take on Rivers and The Meadows (Pennsylvania).

Read on to discover more.

Understanding the Geographic Locations

One major reason I decided to write an article comparing and contrasting casino gambling laws between these states is that you can literally pass from northern West Virginia and into Pennsylvania without even realizing it.

West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle (plus Jefferson County, Ohio) is all technically considered the Greater Pittsburgh Area. An area that bears identical ties in everything whether it’s landscape, local dialects, etc.

That said, it’s easy to assume that the gambling laws are exactly the same and for that, you are onto something. There are a lot of similarities between the gambling laws in Pennsylvania to the laws in West Virginia, which we’ll cover later in the article.

For now, let’s look at some key points regarding gambling laws in each state. Then, we’ll do a brief comparison between the laws before finally contrasting them.

West Virginia Gambling Laws

West Virginia laws prohibit residents of West Virginia from engaging in real money gambling from any unlicensed source or games.

In 2019, the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act was passed, which introduced online casino and poker gaming to state residents courtesy of land-based casinos. However, this bill does not legalize off-shore sites, which include unauthorized games played via the internet.

Its licensing is also relatively cheap, with a one-time $250,000 application fee plus a $100,000 renewal fee every five years.

Mardi Gras Casino in West Virginia

Therefore, it is an offense to gamble online in West Virginia if the gaming source does not come from a land-based casino and you can be subject to a fine up to $100. However, this law does not include high-quality offshore gambling sites such as the Bovada online casino.

The above paragraph only refers to unlicensed intra-state gambling sites that may stake claim to be licensed. That said, anything high-quality like Bovada, BetOnline, etc., is perfectly legal among West Virginia residents.

Video Lottery Terminals, or VLTs, along with classic table games may also be offered. Up to five can be offered in bars and up to ten can be offered in fraternities organizations, with between 85-90% return-to-player games.

In May 2018, sports betting became legal in West Virginia and online sportsbooks followed not long after. All West Virginia residents are also free to wager on-track or off-track on horse races and they may also place online bets as well.

Daily Fantasy Sports, or DFS, such as DraftKings, have always been legal in West Virginia since it was decided such games demanded a specific skill or knowledge level from its players and therefore did not meet West Virginia’s threshold for gambling.

In short, West Virginia is one of the most gambling-friendly states in America with both land-based and online options, so long as the latter is attached in one way, shape, or form to a land-based casino.

Pennsylvania Gambling Laws

Online gambling is legal under current Pennsylvania laws, beginning with a bill passed in October 2017 that allowed land-based casinos to offer online gambling to residents of Pennsylvania.

Sports betting shortly followed, as the state capitalized on the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. The biggest roadblock concerning Pennsylvania, however, are its high taxes and barriers to entry into the market.

For example, you will pay 34% in taxes for your online winnings. Ditto for winnings at land-based casinos.

Pennsylvania Race Track and Casino

As for the barriers to entry, locally-operating casinos claimed 32 of the 39 licenses offered by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. And with each license set at $4 million, it’s a steep price to pay when entering the casino market.

In regards to Pennsylvania gambling, current laws have yet to penalize those who gamble in illegal gaming and per Pennsylvania law, it’s still murky as to what is and isn’t unlawful when it comes to playing on offshore gambling sites.

As for sports betting in Pennsylvania, the cost of entry is high, with a $10 million license certificate plus a 36 percent tax rate on overall revenues.

How Are They Similar?

As you can see, West Virginia and Pennsylvania each comprise similar gambling laws. Per the sources linked above, each has recently introduced all sorts of online gambling options, with Pennsylvania preceding West Virginia.

Online gaming is up and running in Pennsylvania and soon enough, you will see the same throughout West Virginia. But the point of similarity here is that both states do have relatively similar laws when it comes to online gambling.

Daily Fantasy Sports is also a thing in both states, as is online sports betting as well as off-track betting on horse races. Off-track betting has been a thing for years in both states while sports betting and casino gaming is still new to the playing field.

You should expect to see the online gaming sector in both states broaden significantly in due time.

And if you live in the ticky-tacky Northern Panhandle of West Virginia that is basically a bridge between Ohio and Pennsylvania, you can rest assured that the gambling laws aren’t incredibly different between the two states.

That said, you don’t have to pull out the rulebooks pertaining to a plethora of different gambling laws as you make the (literal) five-minute drive from downtown Weirton, West Virginia, and into Washington County, Pennsylvania.

Neither state sees DFS as true gambling and therefore each practically has thrown it into a category of its own considering the skill involved with DFS regarding player knowledge, production, etc. They definitely have a solid point here.

How Are They Different?

From the above summaries, perhaps the biggest difference that resides in West Virginia gambling is that the law tends to crack down harder on illegal operations than Pennsylvania. However, West Virginia’s consequences for first offenses are relatively minor in terms of fines.

Either that or the black market in Pennsylvania is rather subtle about keeping such illegal operations hushed up. But that, of course, goes far beyond the scope of this article.

Hollywood Casino in Pennsylvania

Another major difference is the tax rate based on winnings and barriers to entry. Per the summaries in this article, the barriers to entry are far lower in West Virginia than in Pennsylvania in terms of cost. The high tax rate for winnings in both online and sports betting in PA is also off the charts.

In West Virginia, they’re a little more feasible in both sectors.

Future of Gambling Laws in WV and PA

So, what does the future of gambling look like in Wild and Wonderful and the Keystone State? Given the revenues, you see from the gambling scene nationwide and in PA since the legalization of online gambling and sports betting, expect the laws to grow more liberal, barring anything unforeseen.

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You may want to keep your eye on taxation via winnings if you’re a West Virginia resident. Given the state’s proximity to Pennsylvania and many in that northern panhandle (two of the five casinos are located there) flocking to PA, don’t be surprised if tax hikes on winnings come in the future.

As for Pennsylvania, expect a crackdown at some point on unregulated markets. Especially as online gambling and sports betting becomes more of a thing within the states.

You can also expect them to treat DFS as more of a skilled game that simply happens to have monetary stakes as a by-product rather than gambling. That said, you daily fantasy sports and DraftKings enthusiasts, you guys are good to go.

Conclusion

Okay, so I hope I summarized these laws in Layman’s terms and if you’d like further information on gambling laws in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, feel free to click through on the links provided in the sections which will give you a more formal overview rather than the summaries provided.

The good news here is that while the laws vary slightly in each state, they’re very similar. Especially since West Virginia has expanded its own legalization of online gambling over the past couple of years even if it is still well in its infancy and Pennsylvania is further along.

You can also expect more liberal laws in both states in the future, especially as they continue to bring in the revenue for their respective states.

What do the gambling laws look like in your state and do you live near any state border where the laws vary? Let us know.