State adds more gambling after legalizing WV sports betting in 2018

It’s Official: West Virginia Legalizes Online Casinos, Poker; Becomes Fifth State To Do So

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West Virginia has officially legalized online casinos in the state, thanks to the inaction of the governor.

The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act cruised through the House in February, and the Senate then approved and made amendments to the bill. The House accepted those changes and sent the bill to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice.

Now H 2934 is a law, after Justice apparently let the veto deadline pass without action.

The state legislature passed the bill in full the day before it adjourned on March 9. From that date, excluding Sundays, Justice had 15 days to sign or veto the act.

As was the case for WV sports betting, Justice chose not to act on the bill and instead let WV online gambling become law on Wednesday.

What states have online casinos and poker?

WV joins these states that have some form of online gambling other than sports betting:

How will WV online gambling look?

This WV bill just beat the buzzer as the state legislature adjourned March 9, one day after the Senate amended and approved the act.

The bill landing on Justice’s desk did not guarantee that WV online casinos would become legalized. Last year, Justice hedged at signing the WV sports betting bill. To boot, surprising vetoes have occurred, such as the one that killed iGaming and online sports betting in Michigan last year.

Regardless, West Virginia is now one step closer to the regulated online gambling industry.

The Mountain State will feature online poker and casino games for customers aged 21 and older within state lines. Land-based casinos will apply for one of the five available permits (one for each property).

  • Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
  • Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort
  • The Casino Club at The Greenbrier
  • Mardi Gras Casino & Resort
  • Wheeling Island Hotel

These casinos would shell out $250,000 for an interactive license, which can be renewed for $100,000 every five years. This comes on top of $100,000 for platform and service management licenses and $10,000 for supplier licenses.

As for West Virginia’s cut, the state expects to tax online gambling revenue at 15 percent.

How long till WV online casinos launch?

That’s a question without a great answer, currently.

Online sports betting was legalized about the same time last year, and the first app launched in December. Of course, online wagering is shut down — keep reading for that story — for the only app that was live.

It’s not clear if the experience with online sports betting will help at all as the state tries to get online casino gaming and online poker going. But even in an aggressive timeline, it would seem like 2020 would be the earliest a launch would take place.

Online gambling + WV sports betting

Interestingly, much of the WV online gambling legislation runs similarly with the state’s sports betting law. While the state has not detailed how many skins will become available for casinos, it might fall in line with the three mobile skins per property allowed by WV sports betting.

All five casinos currently boast sports betting partnerships.

Likely, these deals could expand to including WV online gambling. And if the state allows for multiple skins, outside operators could come in to take advantage of West Virginia’s expansion.

WV sports betting in flux

While West Virginia is on the verge of further expanding its online gambling options, the state’s sports betting industry has taken a hit over the past few weeks.

Earlier this month, Delaware North casinos Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island suspended retail and online wagering operations. For three weeks sports betting has been sidelined, both at the properties and via BetLucky WV, courtesy of a third-party contract dispute.

Not much information regarding this snafu surfaced. Until Legal Sports Report obtained a letter, dated March 19, that outlined the turmoil.

As the letter indicated, the issue stems from a disagreement between the platform provider, Mionmi, and one of its third-party vendors, Entergaming.

As a result of the shutdown, Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island reported revenue losses for the week of March 10, as both paid out open bets while not being able to accept new wagers. The timing could not have been much worse, as WV sports betting at these casinos went dark just ahead of March Madness.

The state will hope to have a smoother rollout of online casinos.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the governor did not sign the bill but let it lapse into law.

- Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf throughout his career.
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