West Virginia iGaming Bill on Verge of Passage
After clearing a pivotal committee vote, a West Virginia iGaming bill looks to be on the fast track to full passage. House Bill 2934 – also known as the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act – was introduced less than two weeks ago by a bipartisan group of 11 lawmakers.
State delegate Jason Barrett (D-61) leads that coalition as primary sponsor, and as he told Eric Ramsey of the Online Poker Report shortly after its introduction, HB-2934 was designed to form a template other states interested in iGaming regulation can follow:
“With our iGaming legislation, we seek once again to lead the charge by permitting traditional land-based casino gaming to be conducted via electronic devices.
If passed, iGaming has the potential to bring millions of dollars in revenue to our state.”
On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted overwhelmingly to approve HB-2934, putting West Virginia on the verge of becoming just the fifth state – joining Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania – to legalize both sports betting and iGaming.
In late August of last year, West Virginia became the fourth state outside of Nevada to offer legal sportsbooks, taking advantage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in May to strike down a 26-year old federal ban.
Confidence Growing Among West Virginia iGaming Allies
In a tweet dated February 19, state delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-3) – one of HB-2934’s many sponsors on both sides of the aisle – celebrated the committee vote using a poker-themed metaphor:
“iGaming legislation has passed out of Judiciary and is on its way to Finance. Unless there’s a nasty card on the river, we’re looking good for full passage.”
Fluharty followed up by using Twitter to reveal that the House Finance Committee, HB-2934’s next stop along the legislative ladder, has already decided to waive its right to review.
That means the West Virginia iGaming package – which includes online casino table games, slots, and poker – will head directly to a floor vote by the House of Delegates on Friday, February 22.
That favorable development came courtesy of state delegate Eric Householder (R-56), yet another co-sponsor of HB-2934 who happens to serve as chair of the House Finance Committee.
If the House acts as expected and passes the bill, HB-2934 would then face a vote before the West Virginia Senate, before heading to the desk of Republican Governor Jim Justice for a final signature.
Justice – who let the state’s sports betting measure pass into law without his signature – is also the owner of The Greenbrier, a luxury resort operating one of West Virginia’s five casinos on a private guest basis.
Nuts and Bolts of West Virginia’s Expected iGaming Industry
Along with the Casino Club at the Greenbrier, the Mountaineer State is home to four fully public racetrack casinos which HB-2934 would authorize to offer online gambling:
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
- Mardi Gras Casino and Resort
- Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort
- Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack
If passed, the West Virginia iGaming bill would allow these five properties – each of which already offers online sports betting – to apply for iGaming licensure through the West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC). Those licenses would cost $250,000 each and cover five-year terms, with operators paying a 10 percent tax on gross gaming revenue.
Crucially, the WVLC would also be tasked with studying successful iGaming marketplaces in states like New Jersey to establish West Virginia’s new rules and regulations:
“The commission shall examine the regulations implemented in other states where interactive wagering is conducted and shall, as far as practicable, adopt a similar regulatory framework through promulgation of rules.”