West Virginia Becomes the Next State with Online Gambling

West Virginia has successfully introduced and passed a bill allowing the state to operate online gambling and poker games.

West Virginia has been one of the top contenders to successfully promulgate rules that allow businesses to run online poker and gambling activities in the state.

Shortly after Virginia passed its own legal framework, WV followed suite with Governor Jim Justice signing H 2934 into law. Known as the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, this piece of legislation promises to completely change the state’s outlook on online gambling.

For starters, land-based properties looking to expand online will be allowed to. The properties that presently operate offline casinos include Hollywood Casino, Mountaineer Casino, The Casino Club, Mardi Gras Casino, and Wheeling Island Hotel.

With this, WV is joining a number of other states that have now officially legalized both online gambling and poker, including:

  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • Delaware
  • Pennsylvania (still not formally launched)
  • Virginia

West Virginia is joining just on time to give poker fans high hopes for the future of the industry. Inter-state poker so far has not produced the results that its supporters have hoped for.

Can this change?

Online Poker Needs More Help to Prosper

The states to legalize online poker so far have endorsed the game in full. However, there have been all sorts of challenges to overcome. First, places like Nevada and Delaware aren’t exactly populous and some people prefer to head for a land-based casino rather than play online.

New Jersey has been caught in a frenzy of sports betting, not to mention that Atlantic City’s casinos have been humming well. Without a big injection of players, seeing online poker take off in full in the United States is a bit of a wishful thinking.

As another not so badly populated state, though, WV will contribute a lot to revitalizing the industry in terms of players.

Even though there’s no official launch date, we expect WV to see its first legal online poker in 2020 or 2021 at the latest, roughly the same time Virginia will welcome its own iGaming operators.

This means that in very short time, the online poker pool in America will grow significantly – that’s good news. Plus, there are other places that are edging closer to legalizing their own industries, to name a few:

  • Michigan
  • Illinois
  • New York

There seems to be sufficient support for the game regardless of the restrictive measures adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice now looking to backtrack on some of the progress made thanks to an earlier decision about the Wire Act back in 2011.

WV Is Not Going to Be the Biggest Source of Players

The news is big for online poker in the United States. WV will not be the biggest contributor to the shared player pool in the US, though. This will be left to states such as NJ, PA, and of course Virginia.

Still, WV is an important part of the machinery that is pushing forward to legalize the activity. WV has received sports betting very warmly already. In May, 2018, NJ managed to scupper PASPA, allowing the entire country to introduce sports betting.

WV organized itself quite quickly and by December that same year, we saw sports betting go live in the state’s legal land-based properties:

  • The Greenbrier
  • Hollywood
  • Mountaineer Mardi Gras
  • Wheeling Island

Can we realistically expect a repeat of this scenario? Absolutely. Here’s a little more about the licensing itself.

How Much Will It Cost to Obtain Licenses

Given the population of the state, WV lawmakers have managed to come up with a fair number across the board. Today, operators will have to be prepared to cough up $250,000 per an online license.

The amount is not too demanding and it definitely gives businesses enough time to prepare and try to establish whether it will pay off.

Nearly all other states have established similar licenses, apart from Pennsylvania, which because of its population, has requested $4 million per segment, meaning online poker, casino table games and online slots.

Each license has to be renewed every year for $100,000. Operators will also have to pay $10,000 for supplier licenses and also pay additional $100,000 for service management licenses.

Trouble Brewing?

If you have been reading us by now you will have certainly heard about the Wire Act. If not, let’s sum up the facts in a nutshell.

Poker and gambling have never been the darling of the US public. However, in 2011, Illinois and New York took aim at the Wire Act and whether the act could be applied to inter-state online gambling, but mostly lotteries.

The Department of Justice ruled out in favor of the states and New York and Illinois began developing their cross-border activities. In January 2019, a new opinion about the Wire Act was signed and passed into law without much debate.

This opinion stated that online gambling is illegal and that it cannot take place across state borders – affecting lotteries and the four states to share prize money for online poker, i.e. NV, NJ, DE, and soon PA.

This can affect places like West Virginia understandably, as DoJ attorneys will now focus on one thing specifically – enforcing the rule.

Should WV Worry about the Wire Act?

There are all indicators that Wire Act is not going away any time soon. Therefore, legal actions can be expected from parties that could be affected. New Hampshire already lodge a complaint against the DoJ and the Attorney General William Barr.

The DoJ has said that it will try and dismiss the New Hampshire claim, which will effectively be a litmus test for whether the DoJ has any real power in dodging the oncoming hail of litigation heading its way.

If WV is heading into the storm clouds ahead of it this can only mean one thing – the DoJ better prepare to defend its position well, because states that are now legalizing their online gambling and poker sure will.

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