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West Virginia Legalizes Online Gambling After Governor Fails to Act

March 31, 2019

West Virginia will become just the fourth state in the US to fully legalize online casinos and poker rooms. The move comes after the state's governor missed a deadline for vetoing the bill. 

Governor Refuses to Act on West Virginia Online Gambling Bill 

No action on the part of Governor Jim Justice paves the way for H 2934 to become law in West Virginia. The bill received overwhelming House support in February before being amended and ultimately approved by the Senate. Governor Justice had until late March to sign or veto the bill but took no action. It is unclear if Governor Justice withheld his opinion on purpose or if the time simply ran out. 

Governor Justice previously took the same course on a bill to legalize sports betting in the state. H 2934 specifically addresses online casinos and online poker, both of which will now be permitted for West Virginia residents that are 21 years of age or older. 

Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware currently have some form of legislation that allows online gambling. Pennsylvania has also approved online casinos and online poker, but the state has yet to launch online gambling venues. West Virginia could, in theory, launch before Pennsylvania. This would make it the fourth state where online gambling has been legalized. 

Specifics of Online Gambling in New Jersey 

H 2934 specifically outlines which forms of online gambling will be permitted in West Virginia. It also establishes the licensing procedure for online casino operators wishing to do business in the state. 

Five online gambling licenses will be made available to five existing land-based casinos in West Virginia. Those eligible to apply for the licenses include Hollywood Casino and Mountaineer Casino, gaming venues which are attached to horse racing facilities in the state. 

Three other casinos in the state will join the racetrack venues and pay $250,000 each for an online gambling license. The license permits the gaming companies to offer poker and casino games to West Virginia residents. Those who wish to play must currently reside in the state and be over the age of 21. 

The casino licenses must be renewed every five years at a cost of $100,000. There are also other licensing fees which could push the total amount needed for the first five years of operation to $500,000. 

All operators will be subject to a 15% tax on gambling revenues. The tax revenue comes as a relief to a state that has suffered economic setbacks. 

There is no timeframe for the appearance of the first online casinos in West Virginia. Most believe that 2020 is the soonest the gaming venues will appear. There have been pitfalls in getting the first online sportsbooks up and running in the state. 

The legalization of online gambling in West Virgina is sure to compel more states to take a look at their own options during the 2019 legislative sessions.


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