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West Virginia Preparing for Possible 2020 Online Poker

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West Virginia is one of several states that have been pushing for online gaming to become legal for residents in recent times. While things haven’t looked so great for one or two other US states, West Virginia has had much more of a positive outlook. In fact, an online gambling sector, which will include online poker, has the potential to be set up and ready for operation in 2020. The state legalized online poker early on in 2019 while also legalizing online casino games at the same time.

In a bid to start out right with its online poker options, West Virginia has sought advice from the already-soaring poker scene in Pennsylvania. To this end, a W.V. delegation of officials visited the Keystone State near the end of December 2019 to gain insight into how to run a successful online gaming economy.

West Virginia’s Story with Online Poker So Far

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It was on March 27, 2019 that the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act was brought into law, which allowed existing casino licensees to expand their services in order to provide online casino and poker gaming.

As it happens, the act was sent from state legislature to the Governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, earlier on in March. However, he didn’t take any action towards it, positively or negatively. Therefore, without him signing it, it passed into law following a 15-day period of no action. As a consequence, the West Virginia Lottery Commission gained control over the online gambling industry of the state, receiving the power to issue rules relating to this. It can also grant and revoke licenses, whilst collecting taxes and fees from operators.

Jim JusticeGovernor Jim Justice Allowed the West Virginia Interactive Wagering Act to Pass Into Law Without His Signature

Speaking of the fees for those casinos choosing to operate online services in West Virginia, a five-year license must be applied for first of all. That initially costs $250,000 whilst renewals of five years will set them back an additional $100,000 each time. The state also wants its cut of gaming revenue, with operators required to pay 15% in taxes.

Sports Betting Not Covered by Online Wagering Act

The act that passed for online poker and casino gaming purposes has nothing to do with sports betting though. This is due to the fact that West Virginia had a functional sports betting law (both online and offline) in place, which was passed in March 2018. In fact, the West Virginia Lottery Sports Wagering Act was introduced two months before the Supreme Court made a decision on whether or not US states could authorize such for their residents.

It was on May 14, 2018 that the Supreme Court of the United States took a decision on the Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) as a result. In doing so, the United States made it completely legal for each individual state to introduce sports betting for their residents to participate in.

Supreme Court Justices 2018With Its Ruling in the Murphy Case, the Supreme Court Ended the Federal Ban on Expanded Sports Betting

That brought in a huge change for the industry, which had been under the PASPA restriction since 1992. Until it was overturned in 2018, only four states had existing avenues for placing bets on sporting events, which were Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware. And even then, only Nevada took full advantage of the possibility to provide legal sports betting while the other three states were content with limited, niche sports wagering products. Since getting rid of the PASPA law, various states have made moves to introduce sports betting opportunities while others like West Virginia have additionally sought to bring in legal online casino and poker options.

Pennsylvania Has the Winning Template

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In order to gain insight into managing this potentially robust economic sector, officials in West Virginia have turned their attention towards the state of Pennsylvania when it comes to online casino and poker gambling. Members of both the West Virginia Lottery and Pennsylvania’s Gaming Control Board (PGCB) met recently so as to be able to discuss their online gaming activities.

It was made known by the West Virginia State Lottery Director, John Myers, that he wanted to “visit some states” that already provide online gaming options in order to ensure that West Virginia does things properly. At the same time, he suggested that online poker and casino gaming would work in a similar way to the state’s sports betting operations. Following the meeting with lottery officials in Pennsylvania, Myers spoke with the WV Metro News and said:

It gave us a little confidence that we’re headed in the right direction.

According to Myers, the primary discovery was that because West Virginia already has a set of sports betting platforms, this will help with the online casino and poker scenes. He spoke of the “initial build-out of the iGaming system” allowing operators to take the new games and simply lay them “on top of a sports wagering-type of platform.” He finished off by saying that it would not take The Mountain State as long to roll out online casino and poker gaming as it did for the sports betting operations.

Because of this, Myers and his lottery group team are looking at having everything ready to begin by the end of June this year. However, as part of the statement that he made to WV Metro News, Myers made mention of the timeframe to “get the permanent rule in place to get beyond the legislative session (in 2021) and file the permanent rule.” Therefore, it could be that the overall launch of available online gambling in West Virginia won’t occur until 2021.

Online Poker Gets a Primary Focus in West Virginia

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Even though West Virginia has legalized both online casino and poker possibilities, it is thought that the latter will be rolled out in a timelier fashion. Pennsylvania launched its very first online poker site in November last year, and it has been reaping the rewards that have come with this. In the days between the soft launch on Nov. 4 up to the end of the month, online poker in Pennsylvania generated $1,965,494. West Virginia will likely be looking to replicate the success that Pennsylvania has seen with its own poker options.

It’s in stark contrast to the New Jersey online poker scene, which has seemingly gone from bad to worse over the past months. In November last year, The Garden State registered its lowest-ever revenue since launching in 2013. When you consider the number of online poker options in New Jersey bringing in a total revenue of $1,492,494 for the month of November, this is lower than the single operating platform in Pennsylvania.

Quite a few things still need to be done in West Virginia though before poker can launch. Once the emergency rules have been set in place, the licensing process will likely start. That being said, none of the operators or online poker brands have stepped forward to announce any kind of partnership with the state’s five land-based establishments.

WV Physical CasinosThe Five Casinos That Will Be Able to Apply for WV Online Gaming

While it looked like PokerStars would be likely to partner up with Mountaineer Casino due to the Stars Group being partnered with Eldorado Resorts for the American market, this may not come to fruition anymore. You see, Eldorado is actually in the process of acquiring Caesars Entertainment following a $17.3 billion deal, and that would then maneuver the Mountaineer Casino toward Caesars. This could then result in a WSOP-branded poker site, operating on the same network as 888Poker.

Yet, until partnerships are officially announced, this is purely speculation. It is thought that one or two partnerships will be announced within the first half of 2020, so as to give a clearer idea of how things will look once state-licensed online gambling in West Virginia launches.

How to Engage in Online Poker in WV for the Time Being

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It’s always great when a US state fully legalizes online poker and other gambling options. Nevertheless, until everything in West Virginia is introduced properly, how do you engage in accessing such gaming options? Well, fortunately, there are various offshore platforms that already exist to cater to residents of The Mountain State.

We have a guide to West Virginia online poker sites that you can read through to find one of our recommended platforms for this. Within that guide, there are several rooms that we place a focus on as our personal recommendations. And if you reside somewhere other than The Mountain State, you can take a look at our USA offshore poker guide for insights into the best places to play for Americans. If you're curious about how the law impacts playing card games over the internet, be sure to check out our page devoted to legal online poker.