West Virginia Considers Second Online Gambling Bill in 2019
The last few years of legislative activity in West Virginia have produced a handful of bills pertaining to gambling and online wagering, but none were brought to committees for serious discussion. It looks like 2019 could be a very different story.
With two weeks of the start of 2019, West Virginia Delegate Shawn Fluharty put his longtime support for online poker and casino games on display once again. He has long seen the potential of the industry by watching New Jersey collect millions in revenue from internet gaming, and he wanted his fellow lawmakers to take a look at the possibilities. As he had done in the past, Fluharty introduced a new bill to start the year.
One month later, another bill was introduced in the House, this one with a bipartisan group of cosponsors, including Fluharty. The lead sponsor is Delegate Jason Barrett, a Democrat and Minority Vice-Chair on the Judiciary Technology Committee.
With sports betting up and running in West Virginia, the new bill seeks to add revenue from interactive wagering to the state’s coffers as well.
Latest and Greatest Bill
The new bill, HB.2934, was formally introduced to the House Judiciary Committee on February 8. The next step will be the Finance Committee. Barrett notes the summary of the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act as “permitting interactive wagering authorized as West Virginia Lottery interactive wagering activities.”
WV has become a pioneer in #sportsbetting legislation. With our #iGaming bill, we seek to permit land-based casino gaming to be done via electronic devices — an initiative that has the potential to bring millions in revenue to our state. #WVpol https://t.co/x6ZhrUyXpM
— Jason Barrett (@JasonBarrettWV) February 12, 2019
As it stands, the Democratic cosponsors of the bill are Fluharty, Mick Bates, Isaac Sponaugle, John Williams, and Doug Skaff. The Republicans that signed on thus far are Eric Householder, Steve Westfall, Dianna Graves, Vernon Criss, and Erikka Storch.
If passed, the bill will amend the Code of West Virginia with a new article to:
–charge the West Virginia Lottery Commission to oversee interactive wagering
–require the Lottery Commission to levy and collect all fees and surcharges
–authorize a weekly tax on gross interactive wagering receipts
–limit interactive wagering to the existing casino and racetrack casinos
–provide four types of licenses related to sports betting
–issue five-year operating licenses at $250K each
–establish licensing requirements and fees
–authorize the Lottery Commission to levy and collect a 10% privilege tax on wagering receipts
–create the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Fund
–impose civil and criminal penalties for violations and unauthorized interactive wagering
–establish certain exemptions from federal law
This bill primarily differs from Fluharty’s HB.2178 in that the licensing fee increased from $50K to $250K but the tax rate went down from 14% to 10%.
The second state to file an online poker bill in 2019 is… West Virginia! @WVUFLU is ready to try again for legal online poker and casino games following a successful sports betting launch. https://t.co/tz261JNl9m pic.twitter.com/eWSbcb3egh
— LegalUSPokerSites (@legal_poker) January 11, 2019
As it stands, the five existing properties that would be able to apply for interactive wagering licenses are the Casino Club at the Greenbrier, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races (operated by Penn National Gaming), Mountaineer Casino and Racetrack (owned by Eldorado Resorts), and Mardi Gras Casino and Wheeling Island Casino-Racetrack (both owned by Delaware North).
The Clock Ticks
The introduction of HB.2934 made it just in the nick of time, as the deadline for House bills was four days after Barrett took his action. The last day to introduce bills in the Senate is February 18, but that deadline doesn’t apply to supplementary appropriation bills or concurrent resolutions.
The calendar for West Virginia lawmakers moves quickly, though. Bills are due out of committees by February 24, and the last day to consider a bill on the third reading is three days later, with the exception of budget or supplementary appropriation bills.
And finally, the legislature adjourns at midnight on March 9.