West Virginia Regulators Prepare for iGaming Launch
West Virginia hopes to finalize regulations for its newly legalized online casino and poker industry by summer of next year. That next summer target date for West Virginia online gaming comes from West Virginia Lottery director John Myers, who spoke to WV Metro News last week to outline the agency’s plans for launching regulated iGaming.
West Virginia Online Gaming Next Summer
Myers told the newspaper that the West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC) – which is tasked with regulating both iGaming and sports betting in the Mountaineer State – hopes to send envoys to other jurisdictions where online gambling has been successfully implemented:
“We want to go and visit some states that have that product so we can make sure we are doing it in the right way as well. Like everything else, when we were doing sports wagering we were learning new terminology and there’s new ways to set things up inside the casinos. You’ve got differences in the way you set up table games to sports wagering to racetrack video lottery.”
State Embracing Several Forms of Gambling Expansion
Back in March, lawmakers signed off on the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, a bill calling for the legalization and regulation of online casino and poker games.
Governor Jim Justice ultimately allowed the bill to become law without his signature, enabling the following five casinos to apply for West Virginia online gaming licenses:
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort
The Casino Club at The Greenbrier
Mardi Gras Casino & Resort
Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack
Justice took the same cautious approach in March of last year, when he allowed a sports betting bill calling for both brick and mortar and online / mobile bet shops to become law without his endorsement. The same five venues listed above are also licensed to operate both onsite and online / mobile sportsbooks in conjunction with third-party partners.
West Virginia became the fourth state to launch legal sportsbooks – following the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of a federal ban on the industry outside of Nevada in May of 2018 – last August, joining Delaware, New Jersey, and Mississippi. Since then, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Arkansas and New York have joined that list, while seven states and Washington D.C. have laws on the books which are awaiting implementation.
When the WVLC finishes drafting regulations next summer – the Act sets a deadline of June 2020 to do so – licensed iGaming operators should be expected to go live shortly thereafter. That will add West Virginia to a short list of states offering various forms of regulated iGaming, joining Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
With the Silver State’s iGaming industry limited to online poker only, and the poker vertical expected to launch in Pennsylvania by year’s end, West Virginia will become just the fourth state to offer both forms of iGaming.
Online / Mobile Sportsbook Mishaps Could Inform iGaming Policy
West Virginia’s first online / mobile sportsbook went live in December of last year, when casino operator Delaware North partnered with British firm Miomni Gaming to launch the BetLucky.com app.
BetLucky.com was affiliated with Delaware North’s two land-based properties, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack in Wheeling and the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort, but a contract dispute with Miomni forced both the app and the venues’ onsite sportsbooks to close in March. The discontinuance of BetLucky.com left the state with no online / mobile sportsbooks to speak of, an absence which continues to this day despite public statements from FanDuel and DraftKings declaring their intention to enter the market.
Speaking to WV News, Myers pointed to the unforeseen shuttering of the state’s first online / mobile sportsbook as prime reason to perfect West Virginia online gaming regulations ahead of that vertical’s launch:
“All five of them had operations, and two of them had the mobile app in place, but that was shut down due to a dispute because of a third-party IT vendors. The mobile app has not restarted. The remaining three casinos, though, are running a retail operation inside.”