How New Amendments Changed West Virginia Responsible Gambling Bill

Written By Corey Sharp on March 12, 2024
Photo showing WV Senators meeting during a legislative session for a story about the responsible gambling bill in the state being adjusted to focus more on growth in the industry.

The West Virginia Responsible Gaming and Research Act (RGRA) has a new name with important amendments as it moved through the West Virginia legislature. The bill has changed to the Responsible Gaming and Research and Industry Development Act. There’s an added emphasis on trends and innovations in the gambling industry. It is currently on the way to Gov. Jim Justice’s desk.

The amendments have adjusted several key aspects of the original bill. This has raised concerns about its reduced focus on responsible gambling in West Virginia.

West Virginia RG bill amended as it passes through legislature

Shawn Fluharty, Minority Whip in the West Virginia House of Delegates, and Speaker of the House, Roger Hanshaw, sponsored and introduced the West Virginia Responsible Gaming and Research Act (RGRA) last month.

House Bill 5668 is on its way to Gov. Justice’s desk. However, it didn’t get there without some key amendments. The original bill produced by Fluharty and Hanshaw was supposed to gather more information on player behavior, to prevent and treat problem gambling more effectively. That is not the intention of the bill anymore.

According to the West Virginia 1-800 Gambler Twitter page, the bill is now encouraging people to bet. The organization laid out concerns in an X post:

“The original bill’s purpose was to ‘ensure the integrity of gaming or to improve state-funded services related to, or general understanding of responsible gambling, and problem gambling.’ The purpose is now to help ‘West Virginia University to develop new programs or alter or expand existing programs to include courses, training, certificates, initiatives or other methods designed to foster innovation in gaming technology development.”

The bill is also removing the involvement of the Department of Human Services (DHS), which plays an instrumental role in overseeing problem gambling resources.

Key differences from original WV responsible gambling legislation

The original bill introduced was supposed to add more resources to help treat and prevent problem gambling behaviors. The previous proposal put an emphasis on responsible gambling, as it read:

“Any operator, management service provider, racing operator, sports pool operator, sports pool intermediary, Special Licensed Retailer, and/or iLottery operator or vendor is required to provide to West Virginia University on a monthly, a quarterly, or an annual basis, all transactional data and metrics related to their mobile gaming operations conducted in the state for the purpose of conducting research to assist the Department of Human Services, State Lottery Commission, or a successor agency or agencies, in ensuring the integrity of gaming or to improve state-funded services related to, or general understanding of, responsible gambling, and problem gambling.”

The new version reads:

“For the purposes of research only, West Virginia University shall be permitted to analyze transactional data and metrics of the type collected and maintained by the West Virginia Lottery as of March 1, 2024, related to gaming operations conducted in the state. For purposes of this section, ‘transactional data and metrics’ refers to items such as demographic data, usage data, utilization of responsible gaming features, account suspension, complaints and financial information, including deposits, withdrawals, bonus usage, balance statements and bet-level data, as determined in the sole discretion of the West Virginia Lottery.”

The updated bill does not “require” operators to send over player-specific data to West Virginia University as the original proposal does.

WVU is still involved in the process, as a report on responsible gambling trends has turned into a report on the “impact of casino, video lottery, iGaming, racing, iLottery, and sports wagering on players and on the state’s economy.”

West Virginia’s 1-800 Gambler is urging a strong request through its Twitter:

“We ask that you vote against this bill, which as it is currently written, will not prevent more West Virginians from experiencing problem gambling.”

The bill has appeared to change from identifying problem gambling trends to industry-wide trends for continued innovation and improvement.

Photo by Jeff Gentner / AP
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayWV bringing you coverage of the WV online casino market in the Mountain State. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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