Will Online Poker Come to West Virginia in 2021? Probably Not...
January 7, 2021
In 2020, talk of online poker legalization in West Virginia looked promising, but the pandemic struck and closed doors even after state legislature agreed to legalize casino games, online poker and sports betting in West Virginia
in March 2019. State delegate Shawn Fluharty spearheaded the charge. Five casinos have won licenses for online gambling operation including:
- The Casino Club
- Mardi Gras Casino
- Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack
- Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
Why Hasn't It Opened?
Legislature has taken its time drawing up the rules and regulations surrounding online poker in the Mountain State, as well as the issuing of licenses. They hoped to complete the rules at the opening of the summer season in 2020, but when the pandemic struck, they had to focus on public health. Casinos across America shut their doors to stop the spread of COVID-19, and the five casinos listed above closed their doors too. At that point, West Virginia had not launched sites to take the place of the physical locations. New Jersey, in comparison, took in record profits at their online sites. For example, in October 2020, they hit a record-breaking $93.5 million in earnings from a single month. That put them up 106.7 percent since October 2019.
What Stops the Legalization of Online Poker in West Virginia
A lawsuit regarding the 1961 Wire Act stands in the direct path of any online West Virginia poker sites. They first filed the lawsuit in 2018 after legislature decided that the Wire Act could have relevance to online gambling. Further lengthening out the lawsuit, in October 2020, one of the three judges had passed away. Both sides have fought fiercely with rounded arguments, but whoever wins will face an appeal, lengthening out the case and sending it to the Supreme Court. This will sit in a pile of thousands of cases awaiting the SCOTUS judgment. The appeal in itself could take 90 days. With four justices hearing the arguments, it could take months for them to hear all the oral arguments.
All of this could push legalization out to 2022. Unfortunately, it doesn't pay for an online poker site to open its site even if they win against the lawsuit because the opposing party could appeal and render all their work useless. That has made it shaky to open until an official decision gets reached.