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This is West Virginia’s first online gaming bill. The legislation is surprising, but not wholly unexpected. West Virginia was selected as one of Online Poker Report’s “dark horse” states to pass an online gambling bill this year.
The bill, H 3067, sponsored by Delegate Shawn Fluharty, would “authorize Internet gambling through managed and licensed through existing authorized gaming facilities in West Virginia.”
Per the bill:
“Developments in technology and recent legal decisions have created an opportunity to legalize interactive poker as a means to further enhance and complement the benefits delivered by casino gaming and licensed facilities to or for the benefit of the communities in which they operate;”
Along with Delegate Fluharty, the bill has four co-sponsors:
H 3067 assigns licensing and regulation duties to the West Virginia Lottery Commission.
The bill charges the lottery commission with crafting specific regulations.
But the bill does include a number of baseline regulatory standards. Operators are required to:
The bill allows the Commission to enter into interstate agreements. From the bill text:
“Authorized interactive gaming, once fully developed, will allow persons in this state to participate in interactive games, not only with other persons in this state, but with persons in other cooperating jurisdictions in the United States where interactive gaming has been authorized.”
The bill also prohibits unauthorized internet gambling. Criminal penalties are provided for unlicensed entities operating online gaming sites in the state:
As this is the state’s first crack at legalizing online gambling, it will take a while to flesh out where the legislature is on this issue.
However, West Virginia is a gaming state. There has been talk of online lottery and online gambling dating back several years.
In 2014, John Musgrave, West Virginia’s Lottery Director at the time, was exploring online lottery and online gaming according to the Charleston Daily Mail.
“We’re still exploring (online gaming) because we feel that’s the way the industry’s moving, so we want to plan for it,” Musgrave said, “We have not yet made any decision for how we’re going to implement it, but we are looking at it, studying it and seeing how our casinos in our jurisdiction can move in that direction.”
Current lottery director John Myers was also open to online gaming, telling the Charleston Gazette-Mail in July 2016, “There are certainly things we need to consider going forward. To stay competitive, we’ll have to consider these, as well.”