With West Virginia online sports betting already legal, legalized online poker and gambling moved one step closer to reality on Friday. The state’s House of Delegates passed H2934, the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wager Act, 72-22 which puts the state one step closer to the launch of legal WV online casinos.
The Future of WV online casino gambling
The online gambling bill now heads to the Senate Finance Committee. Sources close to the process expect chairman Craig Blair to put the bill on the agenda quickly so it can be read on the floor three times and voted on in with enough time left in its session to override a veto if needed.
It’s not yet known if Republican Gov. Jim Justice will sign the bill. He has been quiet on the issue during this year’s session. In 2018, however, he allowed sports wagering to become legal without his signature.
Thus far, adding online gaming to the state’s gambling menu has received bipartisan support. The House and Senate are both controlled by Republicans, but approval for the bill received significant support from both parties.
One of the bill’s sponsors and long-time supporter of legalizing online gambling, Del. Shawn Fluharty, sees legalization as a way to add needed revenue via activities that many in the state already engage in.
He spoke about regulating online gambling to the Wheeling Intelligencer:
“It would allow for online gaming – for example, you would have the freedom to play online poker. Currently, there’s a robust illegal market where people are playing online via locations overseas and West Virginia gets zero revenue. We want to shrink the black market and capture that revenue which is leaving the state.”
He echoed those same sentiments on the House floor during the bill’s debate period. Fluharty aslo tweeted a message for the 22 no votes.
iGaming cruises through the House by a vote of 72-22. May those 22 receive 7/2 off-suit on a regular basis. ** fist bumps @JasonBarrettWV **
— Shawn Fluharty (@WVUFLU) February 22, 2019
The WV online casino gambling bill
Properties hoping to get in on the act will need to pay a $100,000 licensing fee to offer interactive wagering. The bill stipulates that the state would receive 15 percent of revenue, increased from its original 10 percent.
Fluharty said previous government estimates at the level would have a total economic impact of $17.5 million and up to $45.3 million by its fifth year.
That number should increase with the added 5 percent. The law would also legalize sales of the state’s online lottery. The Lottery Commission would license and regulate online gaming in the state.
Potential impact of WV online casino gambling
There is no perfect estimate as to what kind of revenue the state could expect in West Virginia. The Mountain State currently has only one online betting app.
Since going live in December, BetLucky Sportsbook has brought in $337,000 in gross revenue, a pittance compared to $7.2 million in live wagering receipts. BetLucky serves two of the five WV sportsbooks and the mobile sports betting revenue will likely increase significantly when DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook go live.
The state has a population of only 1.8 million and the recent reinterpretation of the Wire Act by the Department of Justice may bring challenges in terms of joining shared liquidity pools with states that have passed online poker. States with combined online player pools include:
- New Jersey
However, the bill does offer language to allow for these types of compacts if found to be legal in the expected legal battle that many expect will ensue over the issue.
The bill notes that:
“… it is the intent of the Legislature to authorize interactive wagering within the state and through compacts with other approved jurisdictions.”
The legislation also appears to allow properties to enter into partnership agreements with larger online poker and gambling providers, as has been seen in the state’s sports wagering market. Similar partnerships have dominated the online gambling landscape similar to the one seen in New Jersey with PokerStars and other partnerships with Atlantic City casinos. Of course, any partnerships would require state approval.
The legislation notes:
“The duties and responsibilities of a management services provider under a management services contract may not be assigned, delegated, subcontracted, or transferred to a third party without the prior approval of the commission. Third parties must be licensed as a management services provider under this article before providing services.”
The Senate has 34 members and would need a minimum of 18 votes for approval.