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West Virginia Eyeing July Launch for Online Gambling

Online gambling may soon be a reality in the state of West Virginia. It wasn’t too long ago that legislators agreed to approved online gambling legislation. Actions have been taken over the past few months to get the ball rolling, so the new industry can launch. The state’s Lottery Commission recently approved emergency rules and director of the Commission, John Myers stated that services could be operational as soon as this June or July.

Moving Forward

On April 29th, the Commission met and decided to approve the introduced emergency rules. The rules will be officially filed by May 15th by the Secretary of State’s office. Then the Secretary has 42 days to approve or reject the rules.

Once they are approved, the casinos in the state can begin to provide online gambling services based on the emergency rule set. The rules will be in place for 15 months until permanent options are provided by legislature.

The current rules allow each land-based casino to offer as many as three skins via an online gambling license. They must pay $100,000 in licensing fees to get started. Suppliers who will be providing the technology used by the sites, or content/systems, will need to pay a $10,000 fee to offer services.

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Interim licensing can be provided by the Commission, which will allow companies to act as a supplier or operator for up to 270 days. During this time frame, the application of each operator would be thoroughly reviewed.

It was the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act that brought iGaming to the state, setting a tax rate of 15% on gross revenues for operators. The Commission also has the ability to set an amount or percentage of revenues to be used for promotional credits that are tax free, with any credits above the amount or percentage subject to the 15% tax.

Any advertising for the online gambling industry must be approved by the director of the Commission first before it can be made public.  Operators must collect data on those who self-exclude or are problem gamblers each week and actions taken after the information is reviewed and documented.

No COVID-19 Delay

For many states, the outbreak of COVID-19 has caused a shut down or delay in gambling services or regulations. For West Virginia, the virus hit the market at a time when the rules were being finalized. It seems that everything is still falling into place as planned and the outbreak will not affect how the industry moves forward.

Even if the emergency rules are passed and gaming begins, the operators are still subject to permanent rules which will be in place most likely by 2021. Even so, it certainly helps that the emergency rules were put in place now so that hopefully the state can get started with iGaming in the summer.

Like other states, land-based casinos in West Virginia are not operating at this time. COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus and with the casinos as well as other non-essential businesses closed down, it will hopefully slow the spread.

With iGaming on the horizon, the casino operators will have a way to bring in funds, which will certainly help as casino gaming is not bringing in any revenues at this time. It is also unclear as to when the casinos in West Virginia will get back to work, so there may still be weeks or even months before the venues begin turning a profit.

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