West Virginia is on its way to becoming the fifth state where online gambling and poker are very likely to become a legal and fully-endorsed activity.
West Virginia is an interesting case study. Nothing in the history of the state has suggested that it would push to be one of the first states to actually legalize online gambling.
In fact, its history trying to legalize the vertical started in 2017 when Delegate Shawn Fluharty introduced HB 3067, the state’s first dashed bid to legalize online gambling.
Despite its transience, HB 3067 opened the eyes of WV lawmakers for a simple fact – there was enough momentum and local support to pursuit legalization.
West Virginia Senate is moving much quicker, online gambling bill about a dozen bills off
— Steve Ruddock (@SteveRuddock) March 8, 2019
Thrown in the middle seeking similar moves, and one that is now awaiting the official implementation, West Virginia is now leading in front of states such as Illinois, Connecticut, and Ohio.
It’s unlikely that it will catch up to Pennsylvania, which will see the Keynote State’s online casinos roll out in June. Still, WV has quite the momentum and things have been looking very well.
All that is needed right now is for Gov. Jim Justice to sign the bill and make it a law, effectively allowing West Virginia to start operating online gambling and poker businesses.
What’s House Bill 2934 and Why Is It Successful?
House Bill 2934 is the brain child of Delegate Jason Barret.
The project has been particularly successful, despite its young age. HB 2934 was introduced just in February, but it has gained traction very quickly, making it through both houses and committees.
It cleared the Senate on March 8, with 26 people in favor and only seven opposing the bill. Another successful vote came a day later in the House, where a final approval was granted on March with 78 Delegates throwing their support behind the legislation.
Now, the Bill is awaiting a final approval by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. Should the Senator approve the legislation in the 15-day window that he has been given, WV will start moving towards the full regulation of the segment.
A Look at HB 2934
HB 2934 is a well-crafted document that will lead West Virginia into the future, hopefully helping the state join heavyweights such as New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and most recently Pennsylvania.
Despite its small physical dimensions, West Virginia is an important regional state with a pull capable of pouring fresh blood into the shared-liquidity scheme that allows online gambling in the United Stats to compete with some of the arguably more tempting offshore and admittedly less secure options.
Still, HB 2934 doesn’t compromise on tax, levying Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) with 15% and fetching a $250,000 licensing fee. Licenses are granted for a period of five years and need to be renewed by paying a due fee of $100,000.
The estimated windfall or the state is not immediately impressive, but for a state of fewer than 2 million people, the $3 million expected to be generated through the purchase of licenses and tax windfall is a significant amount.
West Virginia is also at an important point where many of its neighbouring states haven’t achieved a united front on whether they should push on with the legalization of their industry. This gives WV a rare opportunity to successfully attract cross-border players, tourists and visitors.
It’s in this window of opportunity that WV can really make things work for the state, scoring quick buck in the short-term and then helping its businesses become part of the future Pan-American network aiming to bring together the online gambling verticals of the entire country.
This ambition is now at risk.
West Virginia’s Online Gambling and the Wire Act
Despite the serious threat from the Wire Act putting an end to online gambling in the United States, or in the very least the shared liquidity program developed with the help of Delaware and Nevada, West Virginia seems interested in going ahead with its plan to legalize the segment.
There has been no political dissonance on the issue even though the Department of Justice (DOJ) seem determined to apply the law. Most recently, another 60-day delay of enforcing the law was announced, postponing the enactment of the new Wire Act Opinion for June at the same time that PA is legalizing its own industry.