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West Virginia became the fifth US state with legal online poker when lawmakers passed the WV Lottery Interactive Wagering Act in 2019.
The law authorizes up to 15 online poker sites in WV, three apiece for each of the state’s land-based casinos. Lottery officials continue to work through the rule-making and licensing process, with the first launch approvals possible this summer.
There are not yet any real-money poker sites operating legally in West Virginia, but that could change soon.
The law allows poker operators to access the market in partnership with one of the five land-based casinos, which act as the primary licensees. Each may offer online poker under up to three brands, creating room for as many as 15 WV online poker sites.
At this point, however, it’s not clear which — if any — operators will bring online poker to WV. The small size of the market and the lack of a clear path to multi-state poker make it a tough sell for large gambling companies focused on immediate growth in the broader US.
WV online poker should be available for both desktop computers and smartphones like iOS and Android devices.
MGM does have a market-access deal with The Greenbrier, making it possible that a partypoker site could eventually appear in WV. Whether or not that happens remains unclear, however, given the private casino is more firmly allied with FanDuel.
PokerStars also seems to have a path into WV — or seemed to, at least.
The Stars Group entered into a partnership with Eldorado Resorts in 2018, but the dynamic has since changed for both parties. Eldorado sold off its WV property as part of its mammoth Caesars acquisition, and TSG is no longer a standalone company thanks to its own takeover by Flutter.
All that is to say very little is certain about online poker partnerships in WV.
Presuming one or more of the major operators enters the market, players can expect to have access to most major forms of poker — including cash games and tournaments in a number of hold’em, Omaha, and stud variants.
No-limit Texas hold’em is the most popular format and the one seen most often on televised broadcasts from the likes of the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour.
Stakes should range from a few pennies into the thousands of dollars for both tournaments and cash games.
Should PokerStars and/or partypoker come to West Virginia, they would no doubt introduce some of the same popular tournaments and series they offer on their New Jersey online poker sites.
Given the state’s relatively small size, though, any WV-specific tournament series is likely to be modest in comparison to those larger US markets.
When the first online poker sites launch in West Virginia, players should keep an eye out for welcome bonuses and promotions. These bonuses might involve a simple reward for signing up, giving players a small amount of cash and/or tournament entries with which to get started.
Online poker sites also frequently offer those who deposit for the first time a matching bonus based on the amount. These matching bonuses usually come with play-through requirements, meaning the player has to play and contribute a minimum amount of rake and tournament fees before being able to collect the bonus.
Available banking methods for West Virginia online poker sites are among the details that have to be finalized as regulations are put into place.
Looking at options available to WV online sports bettors could provide some clues. Deposit options include credit/debit card and PayPal, while players can withdraw funds via ACH/eChecks, PayPal, or check by courier.
Those methods would likely be among those available to WV online poker players as well, as would transactions at the cashier cage inside the casino with which the online poker site is partnered.
While players in West Virginia await licensed and regulated real-money options, there exists an alternative in sweepstakes online poker sites such as Global Poker.
Under the sweepstakes model, players don’t use real money on the site but rather play with one of two virtual currencies — Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins. Global Poker is therefore legally able to welcome players from West Virginia and nearly every other US state.
While some players will always prefer real-money online poker, sweepstakes sites do offer WV players a chance to compete in larger player pools than are currently available among traditional real-money US poker sites.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions related to online poker in West Virginia.
Yes. Real-money online poker became legal in West Virginia under a law passed in 2019, though the first regulated sites have yet to launch.
Sweepstakes online poker sites like Global Poker also welcome West Virginians.
The law requires individuals to be at least 21 years old to play real-money online poker in West Virginia. Sites use geolocation software to ensure those who try to play are doing so from within the borders of the state. Residency is not a requirement, but physical location is.
Those who are excluded from gambling in WV are similarly prohibited from playing real-money online poker in the state.
There’s been no official word yet about PokerStars’ plans in the state.
Third-party suppliers must partner with a land-based casino in order to offer online gambling in West Virginia, including poker. Although PokerStars should have access to the market, it’s not yet clear under which casino’s license it will operate.
It’s not yet clear.
Because of West Virginia’s small population, interstate liquidity sharing may be a necessary precondition to the viability of online poker in the state. However, the legality of multi-state poker partially hinges on the ongoing Wire Act lawsuit against the US Department of Justice.
New states like WV are unlikely to join any such multi-state poker compacts until that case is resolved.
The law that legalized online poker in West Virginia imposes a $250,000 licensing fee and a 15% tax on revenue. Licenses are valid for five years before requiring a $100,000 renewal.
Total revenue will largely depend on whether or not WV is able to pool players with other states with legal, regulated online poker. It might make a modest contribution to the bottom line with interstate liquidity sharing in place but will otherwise likely be negligible.
The West Virginia Lottery regulates all online gambling in the state, including online poker.
West Virginia lawmakers picked away at the possibility of online poker for three consecutive years before a bipartisan effort finally stuck in 2019.
The WV Lottery Interactive Wagering Act (HB 2934) was the vehicle, with online poker and casino gambling lumped together under the new authorization. Both chambers passed the bill with relative ease in early March, and WV online casinos and poker subsequently became legal without the governor’s signature.
Rule-making has proceeded on schedule in the time since, with the final emergency version set to be published to the state register this summer. Once that happens, WV online poker can begin.