It could be a while before there is the first pull of a virtual slot machine at one of the new West Virginia online casinos.
The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act provides the West Virginia Lottery with over a year to establish iGaming regulations. The agency has until June 2020 to finalize the initial rules.
However, according to the WV Metro News, West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers is projecting February 2021 for the potential launch of online casino gambling.
Myers cites the upcoming 2020 election and subsequent inauguration for the timeline.
The bill had bipartisan support and moved quickly through the legislative process. Del. Jason Barrett, the bill’s sponsor, was surprised at how easily it got approved.
“I’m not surprised that we got it passed. I’m surprised that it sailed through as easily as it did.”
Given the bipartisan support, one might expect rapid implementation. However, that appears not to be the case.
Fluharty hoping for an early start
While the Lottery seems intent on pushing the timeline out two years, Del. Shawn Fluharty, a strong proponent of online gaming and sports betting in West Virginia, talked about the prospect of online casinos launching this year.
“I fully expect it to be up and running and hopefully we don’t have the issues with it that we did with sports betting,” said Fluharty in an interview with PlayWV.com.
Fluharty is keen to see online gaming become active rapidly because he believes it will generate additional revenue for West Virginia.
“Online gaming will likely have a bigger impact than sports betting. If you look at the numbers and how it seems to be in other states and the revenue generation factor compared to sports betting, I think it’s a game changer.”
What to expect when WV online casinos do launch
The law limits licenses to each of the five West Virginia casinos:
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
- Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort
- The Casino Club at The Greenbrier
- Mardi Gras Casino & Resort
- Wheeling Island Hotel
An interactive gaming license will cost each operator $250,000. It will be valid for five years, at which time a renewal fee of $100,000 will be due. Online casino activity will be taxed at 15% of gross gaming revenues.
West Virginia online casinos will likely include similar games to those offered in the brick and mortar casinos, including:
About the potential for games, Myers said,
“There are a lot of different things out there that I guess people do. I think there are even some video lottery games like we have in the casinos to a smaller degree that you could even play.”
Given the uncertainty of the implementation date and conflicting desires between the regulators and legislators, a number of important items are still up in the air.
For now, though, any timeline for the launch of online casinos in West Virginia is pure speculation.
What we do know, is long before the application process opens, we can expect several new partnerships to emerge as West Virginia casinos prepare to go online. Stay tuned as we track online casino launch dates in West Virginia.
For instance, we know DraftKings Sportsbook has a partnership with Hollywood Casino. Draftkings recently launched DraftKings Casino in New Jersey. Will DraftKings Casino come to West Virginia? Only time will tell.