West Virginia Looks to Legalize all Online Gambling
February 14, 2019
West Virginia may become one of the first states in the US to legalize all forms of online gambling. Delegate Jason Barrett has proposed HB 2934. The bill, known as the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act would permit West Virginia residents to play online casino games, poker, and bet sports online for real money.
The move is a progressive approach for West Virginia. The state has previously legalized online sports betting and is debating the legalization of online poker under a separate bill. The new bill would address all forms of online gambling and place gaming operators under the auspices of the state's lottery commission.
There could be an uphill climb in getting the West Virginia legislature to approve the measure. The online poker bill stalled in sessions earlier this year. Similar measures that were proposed over the last two years have also failed. But Barrett believes that many states relaxing their stance on online gambling will help his bill gain passage.
If approved, any resident of West Virginia that is 21 years of age or older would be allowed to play gambling games online for real money. Players would have to reside in the state and be able to prove their identity. Other states like Kentucky and Indiana are also in the process of considering gambling bills that would open the door to online betting.
A decision on HB 2934 could come as early as March. The current legislative session ends on March 9, and the bill is currently before the House Judiciary Committee. If passed, online casinos and poker rooms could make their appearance in West Virginia before the end of 2019.
The West Virginia online gambling bill sets the license fee for operators at $250,000. This is much lower than the fee instituted by other states. Also, gaming operators would be charged a 10% tax on revenues.
The revenues earned from online gambling in West Virginia could bring a much-needed boost to the state's budget. Most states have made it clear that the potential revenues from online gambling are too large to ignore. The revenues are generally earmarked for various state programs, and often benefit education and road maintenance.
One concern of the bill is that it does not provide exemptions for so-called "bad actors" that were previously shuttered by the US Department of Justice. Operators like PokerStars are expected to be permitted to offer wagering in the state only if they are willing to establish a local operation. Offshore providers would remain prohibited.
Barrett believes that the time is right to allow West Virginia residents the right to gamble online. The positive momentum throughout the US towards online gambling legalization is in the lawmaker's favor.