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West Virginia iGaming Bill Nears Passage

Having been in the online gambling industry for over a decade, I feel I have a good feel on the pulse of online poker and online gambling regulation in the United States. However, there are times where I fall short and this is one of those times.

A couple of weeks ago, I stated that online gambling regulation in West Virginia had a slim chance of passing in 2019 due to the issues surrounding the Wire Act. The way things are going now, it appears I was way off base.

According to a report from Online Poker Report, online gambling regulation in West Virginia is nearly at the finish line after a bill has made its way through both legislative chambers and is nearly ready to go to the governor’s desk.

WV Senate Approves H 2934

Back in February, the WV Lottery Interactive Wagering Act (H 2934) passed in the WV House of Representatives. At that time, I saw little chance that the bill would move forward through the Senate, or at least not this year anyway.

Boy was I off on that one. On Friday, the WV Senate passed the measure by a 26-7 vote. Normally, the bill would move straight to the governor, but the Senate made a couple of minor amendments to the bill and it must go back to the House for concurrence.

Once that happens, the bill moves to the desk of Governor Jim Justice for his approval. Should he sign the bill, West Virginia will become the fifth state in the United States to offer online poker and online casino games.

What to Expect Should the Bill Pass

Should be Governor sign the bill, then both online poker and online casino gambling will be legal in West Virginia. Like other states, you must be 21 and physically located in West Virginia in order to gamble.

The bill will allow the five land-based casinos and racinos to apply for a license. Licensees will pay $250,000 each for a five-year license. Those licenses will be renewable for $100,000 every five years. Anyone wishing to file for platform and service management licenses will have to pay $100,000. Suppliers will have to pay $10,000 for a license.

One of the biggest advantages of this bill is the tax rate. Those offering online gambling or online poker will only have to pay 15 percent of Gross Gaming Revenue. Even with the light tax rate, online gambling isn’t going to be the most lucrative proposition for the state. It’s expected that the state will only get about $3.9 million in tax revenue during the first year of operations.

Granted, things could change if the recent opinion on the Federal Wire Act is struck down. This would allow West Virginia to join the regulated online poker network presently consisting of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.

Since West Virginia did not include a bad actor clause in their bill, PokerStars would have the opportunity to expand into the state, but it is hard to determine whether they will attempt that move under present conditions. It would not seem a viable move unless they could be part of an interstate poker network.

Personally, I am paying very close attention to this story as it is one that could have some impact on my poker play. I live in Virginia and am less than a three-hour drive from West Virginia. Being able to play online poker in West Virginia, especially if they are able to join the interstate network, would give me a viable reason to make the journey to West Virginia a little more often.

West Virginia borders five states, so it gives multiple states a nearby option for online and online gambling should they choose to try it out. Of course, nothing is concrete yet as the Governor still need to sign the bill. Unless something happens at the last minute, it looks likely that West Virginia will prove me wrong and actually get online gambling legalized in 2019.

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