West Virginia legalizes online poker

West Virginia online poker officially became legal Wednesday, making it the fifth state to legalize it with the West Virginia Lottery Internet Wagering Act.

The Act was waiting for West Virginia governor Jim Justice’s signature to make online gambling legal in the state. But it ended up being his inaction that was the trick.

The Act passed through the House, its last stop before heading to the Governor, on March 9. From that date Governor Justice had 15 days in which he could veto the bill. By taking no action – neither vetoing the bill nor signing it – it passes into law.

Justice taking no action on the bill may seem strange, he did the same thing last year when West Virginia legalized sports betting. The reason behind Justice’s inaction may be to avoid any conflict of interest as he is the owner of the Green Brier Hotel. The hotel houses a casino and could benefit from the launch of online gambling in the state.

How will West Virginia online poker work?

Under the West Virginia Lottery Internet Wagering Act, any of the five casinos in the state can apply for an online gambling license. The license fee is $250,000 with a five year renewal fee of $100,000. All online gambling revenue will be taxed at 15 per cent.

The five casinos in West Virginia that are eligible to apply for a license include the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort, The Casino Club at the Green Brier, the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort, and the Wheeling Island Hotel.

Many of those casinos have already signed partnerships with online poker operators in anticipation of the new law.

When the first online gambling sites will launch in West Virginia remains unknown. It took less than a year for sports betting to launch after it was legalized in the state. But that kind of timeline for online gambling seems optimistic at best.

By comparison, Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online poker in October 2017 but sites still have not launched in the state.

It’s highly doubtful that any sites would launched in West Virginia before 2020. There remains ongoing legal battles and concerns over the Department of Justice’s new opinion on the Wire Act.