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West Virginia became the fifth US state in legalizing online poker

Just a few days ago we commented about the roadmap that some US states are preparing for 2019 and 2020 regarding online poker legalization. Now West Virginia impresses all by becoming the fifth US state in legalizing online poker and gambling.

West Virginia became the fifth US state in legalizing online poker

The path followed by the West Virginia online gambling bill

The Mountain State introduced House Bill 2934 on February 8, 2019, a 28-page document which in resume legalizes online gambling within the state. Just 2 weeks after, H 2934 was passed by the House with 80% of positive votes. 

The bill was discussed and amended on the Senate floor on March 8, again with the overwhelming support of 80% of the WV Senators. After that, the bill reached Governor Jim Justice, who had three options:

  • Use his veto option, just like Michigan Governor did last year;
  • Sign the bill;
  • Not sign the bill, which automatically consists of approval of the law.

The Governor decided for the third option just like he did with the sports betting bill in 2018 (supposedly because his family is involved with The Greenbrier Casino), and then the legal path for online poker in West Virginia was completed, joining other fourth states:

  • Pennsylvania
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Delaware

H 2934: West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act

The West Virginia online poker regulation will allow brick and mortar casinos to apply for a license to offer casino and poker games over the internet:

Casino Sports betting partner
The Greenbrier FanDuel Sportsbook
Hollywood Casino William Hill
Mountaineer Casino William Hill
Mardi Grass Casino & Resort Miomni
Wheeling Island Hotel Miomni

The licensing cost will be $250,000 to apply and a renewal fee of $100,000 every five years. The gambling tax is set to 15% GRR. Also, the casinos must pay an additional $110,000 for "management services". The Mountain State expects to receive $5MUSD/year thanks to the online gambling regulation.

H 2934 includes a "bad actor" clause which could mean problems for current operators such as Bodog Poker or BetOnline if they want to apply for a license:

"Is a company or individual who has been directly employed by any illegal or offshore book that serviced the United States, or otherwise accepted black market wagers from individuals located in the United States".

West Virginians must wait until all the licensing processes finish, and considering the implementation of sports betting last year, late 2020 sounds like a reasonable timeframe to start playing online poker.

It's still uncertain if the Mountain State will seek to join Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada in a shared pool of players, mainly because of the last DOJ Wire Act opinion.

Conclusion

Right after the DOJ Wire Act opinion modification, some media rushed to claim the death of the online poker in the USA. Today a different scenario is upfront of us: West Virginia joins the states that legalized online poker and other four states are actively seeking for a regulation. Although the legal development of online poker is positive for players, the inclusion of bad actors' clauses may just lead to the creation of a small market which may not interest players that much.

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Vargoso 29.03.19 18
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