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Despite its conservative reputation, West Virginia has emerged as one of the most ambitious states in the US when it comes to modernized gambling. Land-based casinos have been legal since 2007, though slot machines (considered “video lottery terminals” by the state) have been around for longer.
Today, the Mountain State is one of the few in which all three major forms of online gambling are legalized:
Lawmakers began their efforts with the WV Lottery Sports Wagering Act (S 415) in 2018 and managed to get regulated sports betting off the ground just in time for that NFL season. Despite some early growing pains, implementation eventually came to include online betting.
The very next year, the legislature approved another update to the state’s gaming industry. Lawmakers passed the WV Lottery Interactive Wagering Act (H 2934) in 2019, legalizing full-scale online gambling — including online poker.
The first WV online casino rolled out in July 2020, though poker is still pending launch.
Online operators across all verticals must partner with one the state’s five land-based casino licensees in order to access the West Virginia market. Each licensee may deploy as many as three online sportsbook brands plus three apiece for traditional “iGaming” — casino and poker.
Here’s the current structure of alliances for WV online gambling:
|The Greenbrier||--||--||FanDuel, MGM|
|Hollywood||--||DraftKings||DraftKings, William Hill|
No legal option for real-money online poker exists in West Virginia for now, though that situation has the potential to change soon.
The WV interactive wagering law included authorization for up to five online poker sites. However, the state lottery is still working to create the necessary regulatory framework and approve license applications.
That said, it’s unclear whether WV will even be an appealing market for operators. Its small population means it may lack the necessary players to keep games running without a multi-state poker pool, the prospects of which remain unclear. It’s possible there’s no operator interested in launching a WV online poker site until liquidity sharing becomes an option.
There is cause for optimism, though. Two major iGaming operators now have a presence in the state, which could eventually come to include poker.
In the meantime, West Virginians can enjoy legal sweepstakes poker with real-money prizes through Global Poker.
So far, there is just one legal online casino in WV:
The Mountain State officially became the fourth with legal online slots and table games when DraftKings Casino christened the WV market on July 15, 2020.
Because casino games are played individually against the house, they don’t suffer from liquidity issues in low-population markets. Online-first operators like DraftKings and FanDuel will no doubt seek to offer their online casino apps in West Virginia when the time comes.
On the other hand, the state’s low population may discourage the likes of Evolution Gaming from establishing a studio in the state. Live-dealer casino games are popular in larger markets like New Jersey, but it’s unclear for now whether or not those games will be available in West Virginia.
There are three legal sports betting apps in WV.
West Virginia’s sports betting bill allows each of the state’s five land-based casinos to have up to three partners for sports betting. Hypothetically, that means that there could eventually be as many as 15 online sportsbooks in the state. In practice, however, the market may not be large enough to support that much competition.
The West Virginia Lottery does not offer online ticket sales or other forms of online gaming at this time. The state is, however, a licensed jurisdiction for online wagering on national horse and greyhound races.
Real-money fantasy sports sites — including daily fantasy sports — also serve WV customers legally.
West Virginia has five land-based casinos:
These properties are the only venues authorized to act as licensees for online gambling. Each is eligible to provide market access for up to three partners for online sports betting, plus another three for online casino/poker.
Established in 1778, The Greenbrier is among the oldest resorts in the US. It borrows the name of its home in Greenbrier County, located in the southeast corner of the state near the Virginia border.
The property received permission from the county to open its Casino Club in 2008, though state regulations stipulate that it’s only open to members and guests. That includes visitors staying at the hotel, as well as members of the Sporting Club and Golf & Tennis Club.
The Casino Club at The Greenbrier has 320 slot machines and 37 gaming tables.
The Greenbrier is independently owned by the Justice Family Group, which purchased it from bankruptcy in 2009. Billionaire Chairman/CEO Jim Justice was subsequently elected to serve as the state governor in 2016.
Both MGM and the FanDuel family of brands rely on The Greenbrier’s license for access to the WV online gambling market.
Hollywood Casino is located in Charles Town in the far northeastern corner of the state — close to Baltimore, Washington D.C. and the Pennsylvania border. The attached racetrack features year-round thoroughbred horse racing.
The property is owned by Penn National, which operates retail sports betting under a partnership with William Hill. The Hollywood license also carried DraftKings into the market starting in 2019.
Hollywood features more than 2,500 slot machines, a 16-table poker room, and a standard array of pit games like craps, blackjack, roulette and various types of casino poker.
Mountaineer is home to the state’s other thoroughbred racetrack, formerly known as Waterford Park and renamed Mountaineer Park in 1987. The property is located in New Cumberland, at the far northern tip of the state about an hour west of Pittsburgh.
Mountaineer obtained permission in 1994 to install slot machines, becoming the first legal “racino” in the US. Table games followed in 2007. The casino now 1,100 slot machines, 32 table games, and a 14-table poker room, while the track hosts live races for six months every year.
The property was until recently owned by Eldorado Resorts, which moved to acquire Caesars in 2020. Eldorado ultimately sold the operating business to Century Casinos and the physical property to Vici Properties, which now leases it to Century.
Mountaineer has a retail sportsbook operated by William Hill, but it does not yet have any public plans for online gambling in any form.
The other two WV casinos are owned and operated by the same company, Delaware North.
Mardi Gras is located in Cross Lanes, in the west-central portion of the state close to the capital Charleston. Wheeling Island is located on the island of the same name, along the state’s northern arm on the Ohio border.
Both casinos have attached greyhound tracks, the only two in the state. Both began offering a full suite of gaming products following expanded legislation in 2007. Mardi Gras has nearly 1,000 slot machines, while Wheeling Island has over 1,110. The former’s poker room is larger, however, with 18 tables to the latter’s 9.
Delaware North was the first WV property to launch online sports betting under the BetLucky brand, but the in-house venture came to a quick and unhappy end. BetLucky WV went offline for good barely three months later amid a technical and legal dispute with its supplier, Miomi.
Though online sports betting has not returned, Delaware North did unveil a new partnership with IGT and a new brand, betly, in 2020.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions about online gambling in West Virginia.
Online sports betting, casino games, and poker are all legal in West Virginia. Online sportsbooks were the first to launch in late 2018, followed by online casinos in 2020. The first regulated WV online poker sites have yet to appear.
There are five casinos in the state that are eligible to offer the various forms of online gambling. Each can have up to three partners for sports betting, plus three for online casino and online poker.
Theoretically there could be up to 15 online sportsbooks and 15 online casinos and/or poker sites in West Virginia. In reality, though, only online casinos are likely to hit the cap.
At the moment, 15 sportsbooks sounds like a lot for a state with such a modest population. It remains to be seen whether the WV market is large enough to attract any online poker sites at all.
The current timeline looks like the first West Virginia online poker sites could go live as soon as summer 2020. Unlike online casino gambling, the timeline also depends on the level of interest among operators and regulators.
The minimum gambling age in West Virginia is 21 years old, and online gambling is available to residents and visitors alike. Customers must be located within the physical borders of the state in order to use WV online gambling sites.
Employees of the state’s casinos are forbidden from gambling, while the state lottery additionally maintains a registry of self-excluded and otherwise ineligible gamblers. League, team, and other sports personnel may also be subject to gambling restrictions.
Operators pay $250,000 apiece for the privilege of offering online gambling in West Virginia. Licenses are valid for five years, and renewal costs $100,000.
The state taxes WV online gambling revenue at a rate of 15%. WV sports betting revenue is taxed at a rate of 10%.
The West Virginia Lottery regulates all gambling in the state, including online gambling.
The first few days of legal online gambling in WV were a windfall for DraftKings Casino, which holds an early monopoly in the new market.
West Virginia joined New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware as the latest state to have online casinos. DraftKings was the first operator to go live.
With regulators set to file temporary rules with the Secretary of State, expedited online gambling could be coming to WV as soon as July.
BetMGM becomes the third mobile sports betting app available in WV, alongside DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
WV Lottery officials are taking the first steps toward building a regulated online gambling industry, seeking input from other US markets.
West Virginia legalized race wagering back in 1931, adding bingo to the list of approved games in 1980.
The modern era of WV gambling really began in 1984, however, with the establishment of the state lottery. The lotto has driven multiple expansions of WV gambling in the time since, including video lotteries in 1994 and 2001 and land-based casino gambling in 2007.
In 2016, West Virginia and four other states joined New Jersey in its legal challenge of the federal sports betting ban known as PASPA. While Murphy v. NCAA worked its way toward the Supreme Court, state lawmakers got to work.
Del. Shawn Fluharty introduced the first WV sports betting and online gambling bills during the 2017 session, just before SCOTUS agreed to take up the case. The lottery subsequently commissioned a six-figure study on the potential impact of legalization.
Although the bill stalled that year, the groundwork for progress was in place.
With states like WV starting to consider legalization, the NBA and MLB began lobbying for a set of sports betting demands including the payment of integrity fees. Gov. Justice briefly (and chaotically) attempted to intervene on behalf of the leagues, only to be forced to back down due to his own stake in the situation via his ownership of The Greenbrier.
WV sports betting became legal without the governor’s signature on March 9, 2018. Less than five months later, Hollywood Casino accepted the first legal sports bet in WV in partnership with William Hill.
Delaware North, owner of Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island casinos, christened the WV online sports betting market with the launch of BetLucky in December 2018. It did not last. By mid-march, a dispute within the supply chain led to the complete failure of BetLucky WV and the shutdown of all online sports betting in the state.
Meanwhile, the lotto was pushing for a further expansion of gambling.
A 2019 bill from Del. Shawn Fluharty was once again superseded by a larger online gambling bill drafted at the behest of the lotto — the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act (HB 2934). The sponsor, Del. Jason Barrett correctly predicted bipartisan support in both chambers as the bill sailed through committee.
The bill passed the House and Senate in March, and Gov. Jim Justice allowed it to become law without a signature. WV online gambling was officially legal. By the end of the the year, the WV Lottery was hard at work on emergency rules.
Online sports betting finally returned to WV in August 2019, as DraftKings and FanDuel sportsbooks went live.