West Virginia residents can break out the champagne bottles because online poker is coming to the Mountain State. Governor Jim Justice failed to sign or veto HB 2934 – the Lottery Interactive Wagering Act – by Wednesday’s deadline, meaning the bill automatically becomes law and internet gambling in the state is now legal.
West Virginia is now the fifth state to legalize online gambling. The Mountain State joins New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Only the first three states mentioned, however, currently have licensed poker sites in operation.
In December, Michigan also passed online gambling legislation. But then-Governor Rick Snyder vetoed the bill days later. Rep. Brandt Iden (R-61st District) recently reintroduced a modified version of the bill. If this one also passes, it’s unclear if the new governor, Gretchen Whitmer, will sign it.
The good news is she hasn’t indicated that she won’t, so there’s hope.
One Step Away
The bill is now law, but it will take time before the poker sites are up and running. There’s still some work to do, namely, licensing the online casinos.
HB 2934 allows for the state’s five land-based casinos to apply for an online gambling license. Only those casinos can legally operate an internet casino in West Virginia.
West Virginia Casinos
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
- Mardi Gras Casino and Resort
- Mountaineer Casino and Racetrack
- The Casino Club at The Greenbrier
- Wheeling Island Hotel
Online poker isn’t the only form of internet gambling approved by state lawmakers. Other casino games such as blackjack and slots will be available at some or all of the soon-to-be licensed sites. West Virginia is already one of seven states outside Nevada to legalize sports betting since the US Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports gambling in 2018.
An online gambling license in the Mountain State costs $250,000 upfront. Operators will have to fork over another $100,000 every five years to renew that license. On top of that, they must pay a 15 percent tax on revenue generated from the internet casinos.
Step in Right Direction
It’s been a long, frustrating road to recovery for the US poker community since Black Friday in 2011. Only three states currently have legal poker sites in operation. So, to say it’s been a slow process of rebuilding the industry is quite an understatement.
But the good news for Americans is major strides have been made in the past year. Pennsylvania and West Virginia officially legalized online gambling. And Michigan got close and lawmakers are now making a second push, this time hoping for a more favorable outcome from the new governor.
The dominoes are slowly falling into place.