The West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC) said the state is “investigating the possibility of joining” an interstate compact that would help attract its first online poker operators and create player pools large enough to support the game in the Mountain State.
West Virginia’s interest in joining an interstate compact is among the first of what is expected to be numerous developments following last week’s decision by the Biden DOJ not to appeal an appellate court ruling that the federal Wire Act applies only to sports betting.
Gaming law attorneys claim online gaming activities such as casino and poker are now legal in most cases.
Although online poker has been legal in West Virginia since 2019, the state is not an attractive market due to its small size: about 1.8 million residents. One option would be for West Virginia to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) which currently comprises Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.
In a statement issued to pokerfuse, the WVLC said that it was exploring its options.
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iGaming first became legal in the Mountain State following adoption of the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act in March 2019. During the pandemic, with the state’s five land-based casinos forced to temporarily close, the WVLC sprang into action and approved emergency rules governing the launch of online casinos in April 2020.
Under the emergency rules, each of the five land-based casinos were allowed to apply for an interim online gambling license, valid for 270 days, and given permission to operate up to three skins each—for a total market space of up to 15 online casino apps. The rules call for the WVLC to conduct a detailed review of operators to determine whether they should get full licenses.
DraftKings became the state’s first online casino in July 2020, operating under the casino license of the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. The next month, BetMGM WV launched its online casino under the license held by the private Greenbrier resort.
In April 2021, both William Hill and Rush Street Interactive (RSI) launched online casinos under the Mountaineer Casino license, with RSI bringing its BetRivers brand to West Virginia. FanDuel launched its online casino, also under the Greenbrier license, in May 2021.
Golden Nugget announced plans to partner with Greenbrier to provide an online casino and online sportsbook through the resort’s license in November 2020, but neither product is live yet.
The emergency rules took effect in May 2020, following approval by the West Virginia Secretary of State, and initially were to be valid for a period of 15 months. The state legislature enacted the rules into law in April 2021. Operators must pay a $100,000 fee for an online casino license, while technology or software providers that supply content for online gambling are subject to a $10,000 fee from the state. The law expires on Aug. 1, 2026.
Four online sportsbooks operate within the state. DraftKings and FanDuel each launched online sportsbooks with their respective land-based casino partners, Hollywood Casino and Greenbrier, in August 2019. BetMGM launched an online sportsbook with the Greenbrier resort in January 2020, and William Hill followed suit in September 2020 with its Mountaineer Casino partner.
There are also five retail sportsbooks in West Virginia, with DraftKings, William Hill and FanDuel operating them for their respective land-based partners—Hollywood Casino, Mountaineer Casino and the Greenbrier resort. The two remaining casinos, Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island, use IGT software to operate Betly sportsbooks.