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Regulators in West Virginia are taking the first tangible steps to bring online casino gambling to their state. Known locally as interactive gaming, WV Lottery officials are working on drafting and filing preliminary rules for the new industry before next summer.
“We want to go and visit some states that have the product so we can make sure we are doing it in the right way,” WV Lottery Director John Myers told WV MetroNews on Monday.
Lawmakers authorized WV online gambling via a bill from Del. Jason Barrett this past March. The passage made the Mountain State the fifth to legalize online poker and the fourth with online casinos in WV, joining:
Drafting rules is the first step in what figures to be an arduous journey toward launch in WV.
According to Myers, iGaming will operate much like sports betting in West Virginia. Casinos will contract with third-party providers to operate their products, while the state lottery will license and regulate the industry.
There’s a lot of work left for all involved.
“When we were doing sports wagering, we were learning new terminology,” Myers said, “and there (are) new ways to set things up inside the casinos. You’ve got differences in the way you set up table games to sports wagering to racetrack video lottery.”
The licensing system for WV online gambling also parallels the existing sports betting framework.
The state will collect a 15% tax on all online gambling revenue compared to the 10% imposed on sports betting.
All five WV casinos rushed to secure sports betting partners last year. It’s safe to assume most — if not all — will apply for online gambling permits when the time comes. Here are the existing alliances:
Some of those suppliers also offer online casino games in other markets, including DraftKings Casino.
The critical question for WV iGaming operators is the number of individual websites (“skins”) regulators will allow. The most likely scenario is three skins per property, as is the case for sports betting.
Even the small WV market presents an exciting new opportunity for US online poker operators too. Don’t be surprised if PokerStars and other poker giants flirt with licensure for online poker in West Virginia.
Presuming no roadblocks appear during rulemaking, fall 2020 looks like a reasonable timeline to launch.
Things don’t always go according to plan in West Virginia, though.
The ambitious state was one of the earliest movers on the sports betting front. However, complications between Delaware North and a third-party contractor forced operations to shut down at Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island.
A letter dated March 19 traced the source of the outage to a scuffle between supplier Miomni and vendor Entergaming. Sports betting operations have yet to resume at either property — or online anywhere in the state — while the dispute works through the legal system in two countries.
Given the lead time and the early efforts to prepare, there’s no reason WV online casinos should meet a similar fate.