Summary: Legislation involving online gambling is quickly gaining ground in West Virginia, with only two more stops until it becomes a legal activity.
Online gambling has been available in the United States on a restricted basis since 2013. That year, Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware began offering iGaming and have not looked back since. Hundreds of millions have been earned and within the past few years, more states have considered joining in. Back in 2017, Pennsylvania passed online gambling legislation and should get started sometime this year. Now it seems that another state could be in the mix, if the final two steps in the legislative process prove to have a positive outcome.
West Virginia Steaming Ahead
After passing sports betting legislation and launching services a few months ago, West Virginia is now making headlines again. The state is the next in line to potentially join the handful of others who offer online poker and casino gaming. The state was able to see a bill pass within the House last month that will authorize poker and casino games online.
House Bill 2934 was approved by the House and then sent on to the Senate. The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act was then changed a bit by senate members and voted upon. The bill was approved by a vote of 26 to 7. The bill must now go back to the House for consideration and if approved, will sit on the desk of Governor Jim Justice for signing.
The House will have to approve the minor changes before it can move on to the Governor’s desk for approval. If signed into law, West Virginia will become the 5th state in the US to legalize online poker and the fourth to offer online casino gaming, as Nevada is strictly an online poker state.
Details of the Bill
Under House Bill 2934, the state’s Lottery would be in charge of regulating online gambling. The five casinos in the state would have the ability to apply for licensing. The state will set a tax rate of 15% on gross online gaming revenues. It is anticipating that West Virginia will be able to earn $5.9 million every fiscal year by way of tax revenues once the new industry is fully implemented.
A license would be good for five years and come at a cost of $250,000. To renew the license, operators would have to pay a $100,000 fee. With the help of technology partners, the land-based casinos in the state can offer online slot games, table games and poker based on the language of the bill.
To make sure gaming is taking place within state borders, geolocation technology would be used. The technology ensures that players are located in West Virginia and not another state.
Before, the tax rate was set at 10%. However, an amendment was made to push the rate a bit higher at 15%. There was a debate to increase the tax even further, to 35%. This was not done though as lawmakers felt that the bill would die due to the high rate.
If passed into law, the bill would take time to implement. It is expected that online casinos could launch by the end of the year, as the bill would take effect in a 90 day time frame. However, it was expected that Pennsylvania would launch rather quickly and we are still waiting on those sites to launch.
With the West Virginia bill, the Lottery will have to examine regulations that other states have implemented involving online gambling and adopt a similar plan. For now, the bill must be considered once again before moving on to the Governor. We will certainly keep an eye on these developments and report as details are provided.