On March 27, West Virginia officially became only the fifth state in the United States to legalize online casino and online poker. Online casino gambling in West Virginia became legal when act H 2934 (commonly known as the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act) passed into state law legalizing all online casinos and online casino games when Jim Justice, the Mountain State’s Governor, failed to act on it by the time his given 15 day deadline expired.
This was not the first time that Governor Justice effectively abstained from the gambling legalization process. In 2018, Governor Justice did something similar, choosing not to sign a bill that proposed the legalization of sports betting and by failing to act, it became law 15 days after originally landing on his desk.
The Fine Print of the New WV Online Casino Law
At the heart of the new law, the West Virginia interactive gaming bill does not alter radically when compared to similar online gaming legalization bills from other states. Straight out of the gate, the bill allows anyone who is 21 or older to place wager on online casino games and play online poker whilst within the West Virginia State Limits. In order to protect the system, the latest in online geolocation technology will be used to ensure players are gaming from within the State lines of West Virginia.
The major beneficiaries of the newly legalized online gambling and online poker industries will be the state’s five land-based casinos, who will now be allowed to apply for interactive gaming licenses. Should they opt to do so, the state’s bricks and mortar casinos will need to;
- Pay a renewable $250,000 licensing feewhich will be renewed every five years at the cost of $100,000.
- Software and Platform/Service providers servicing the gaming operations will be required to pay a $100,000 licensing fee.
- The extraordinarily reasonable tax rate on the online casino revenue raised has been set at 15 percent, a bargain compared to the exorbitant tax rates imposed by the gaming laws in other states, or under consideration in states like New York and Pennsylvania for example.
West Virginia is expecting to rake in between $4 million and $6 million annually into the state’s revenue coffers from online casino gambling, a pittance when compared to states like New Jersey where the revenue from online gaming has peaked as high as $38 million, and is on the up year-on-year.
However, with a population of less than 2 million, compared with New Jersey’s almost 9 million, the money raised is not to be sneezed at, as the West Virginian State Budget’s infrastructure and services spending will take a healthy capital injection.
Where and When To/From Here?
The West Virginia Lottery Commission, the Mountain State’s overarching body that oversees all the gaming activities will now have until June 2020 to finalize on gaming regulations and operational frameworks for the State’s fledgling online casino industry.
However, in the meantime, Federal regulations have also posed a question mark over online gaming in West Virginia to take part in any liquidity sharing agreement (such as Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have done) as the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced plans earlier this year to reinterpret the Federal Wire Act.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey are spearheading efforts to have the DOJ opinion overturned. However, if not, then the liquidity agreement between Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey could be terminated, leaving West Virginia’s almost 2 million in population to compete among themselves.
Watch this space and we’ll let you know what kind of prize pools you’ll be playing for in West Virginia.