WV Seems Unlikely to Move Forward with iGaming Legislation

by Jim Hall

West VirginiaOnline gambling seems to not have enough support in West Virginia.

For 2017, seven states have introduced legislation in efforts to see online gambling take place in a variety of forms. The latest state to introduce such legislation is West Virginia. As the legislative sessions in the state is set to end in two weeks-time, the proposal by Delegate Shawn Fluharty seems to be unable to gain the support it needs to move forward.

Conversation Starter

For several states, the introduction of online gaming legislation is simply a conversation starter. This seems to be the case in West Virginia. With a proposal on the table for online gaming, legislators can begin to discuss what they would like to see in regards to tax rates, licensing fees, gaming options allowed, etc. Essentially, legislation is used to work out the kinks so to speak so that a final bill can be created and offer the gambling option in the right way.

House Bill 3067 was introduced by Fluharty just a short time ago and will allow the five casinos in the state to begin offering online gaming. An email by Fluharty recently stated that he wanted to see online gaming take place in the state as he believes the gaming industry of the state needs to evolve due to the expansion of gaming in neighboring states. On top of the online gaming bill introduced by the Delegate, Fluharty also proposed a measure for sports betting legalization for the state.

In the email, the Delegate stated that both online gaming and sports betting will allow the state to be able to compete at the highest level. Increased revenues will be seen and will help the ‘very budget-strapped state’. Fluharty stated that the focus needs to shift to new revenue streams instead of reverting back to old ways of raising taxes.

Details of the Proposal

The online gaming proposal created by Fluharty includes details for licensing as well as tax rates. The state would set a fee of $50,000 for licensing of operators along with a 14% tax rate set on gaming revenues. These numbers are relatively low when compared to other states such as Pennsylvania. When looking at Pennsylvania licensing fees, as much as $10 million has been suggested. For tax rates, the number is set from 14 to 25 depending on which piece of legislation you are reading. Overall, operators should be more than willing to take part based on the numbers set in Fluharty’s measure.

Also included in the measure is language that will allow interstate compacts for the state. West Virginia would be able to work with others such as Delaware and Nevada in order to share player liquidity. This option helps the smaller states to be able to stay in competition with states that have larger population numbers.

Fluharty has remained realistic about his online gaming bill and the chance it has to pass this year. The Delegate feels that it is unlikely that his bill be picked up by House leadership this session. However, he does know that by introducing the measure, he has helped to start the conversation and gain momentum when it comes to passing a bill in the future.

The Delegate says that it is hard to ignore the facts for too long even when it comes to politics. He is hopeful that the measure will get the ball rolling and legislators will be able to realize that the legislation is needed to benefit the state.

It will be interesting to see how the state progresses in the coming months in regards to this measure or any other legislation presented as the year continues.