In March of 2019, West Virginia became one of the only five states that allowed gambling. The WV Lottery Interactive Wagering Act of 2019 authorized an establishment of up to fifteen gaming sites, three apiece for each land-based casino. While this was commendable, WV is yet to agree on online poker. To understand the reasons, let’s look at how gambling came to be in West Virginia. In the late 1700s, European immigrants in WV introduced gaming as a way to pass time. By 1863, the WV legislature had already outlawed gambling in all forms. However, seven years later, they made exceptions for Pari-mutuel wagering. And on 6th November 1984, through a voter referendum, the West Virginia Lottery was established.
Why online poker is more of a dream than a reality
When John F Kennedy came to power in 1960, America was facing a scourge in the number of organized crime. His first act was to pass the Interstate Wire Act of 1961. This law prohibited the use of wire communications for purposes of betting. This is the primary reason why online poker is yet to take shape.
No online poker company has announced a partnership with WV land-based casinos
A year after the gaming bills were passed into law, the West Virginia Lottery Commission was yet to develop online gambling regulations. With covid 19 taking center stage in 2020, casinos began making losses. This significant change led to the commission approving temporary laws for online gaming. Interestingly, while several casinos grabbed this opportunity with open arms, until today, no known poker and land-based casino have applied for a license.
In 2019, the Department of Justice usurped its last stand on the wire act of 1961. previously, the DOJ held that the wire act only prohibited sports betting. However, in mid-2019, the DOJ reversed its standing and included other gambling forms in the Act. This complicated yet straightforward law left some states such as West Virginia in limbo.
West Virginia’s low population could play a part in online poker entrance
While the Interstate Wire Act might be the primary reason why online poker casinos haven’t applied for a license, the State’s population is another hurdle. West Virginia has a population of over 1.8 million people. For a poker app to remain viable, a certain number of players need to play regularly. Because of WV’s sparse population, concerns are high if online poker can attract an increased number of players. And if they were to magically get the number, how long will they maintain a steady supply of players. However, if WV were to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement and choose to share its liquidity with other States, online poker would be more of a reality than a dream.
West Virginia made over 1.3 million dollars in online gaming since early 2020. The figures are due to rise with NFL and Basketball taking center stage. With online poker yet to take shape, WV will be on the lookout for a response from the DOJ office.