West Virginia Pushes Online Poker Process After PA Trip
The latest information from West Virginia State Lottery Director John Myers indicates that internet gaming, including online poker, could be ready for business in 2020.
Earlier this year, West Virginia became the fifth state to legalize online poker and only the fourth to do so for casino games. It was a victory for internet gaming fans and poker enthusiasts, as the US market has been slow to build.
There was momentum in 2019, though.
West Virginia lawmakers Shawn Fluharty and Jason Barrett kicked off the year with another pair of internet gaming bills, and they moved quickly for approvals. The House bill (HB.2934) passed in early March, and it headed to Governor Jim Justice for his approval. He refused to sign it, but the lack of any action at all was fine. The bill became a law.
Under the radar bill (sort of): WV is now one of only a few states that will have #iGaming which I originally introduced a couple years ago. Let's play some poker and raise some revenue!
— Shawn Fluharty (@WVUFLU) March 28, 2019
The latest update from West Virginia includes word that Myers has been exchanging details his counterparts in Pennsylvania. And the work toward launching West Virginia internet gaming sites may be moving along faster than initially expected.
Slow but Steady
At first glance, it looked like it was going to be a slow process toward the launch of actual online poker and casino game websites in West Virginia.
The bill became law in late March 2019 but required a 90-day waiting period before it became effective. Then, at the end of July, the West Virginia Lottery Commission – the regulator for the new online industry – planned to officially file its emergency rules by the summer of 2020.
Director Myers was working on an initial draft of the rules that would regulate the industry but wanted to “visit some states that have that product so we can make sure we are doing it the right way.” He noted that online casino and poker gaming would likely operate similarly to sports betting.
WV Lottery Making Moves
Evidently, Myers was on the right track with his approach to sports betting and online gaming for West Virginia. This is what he told the WV Metro News after a meeting with lottery officials in Pennsylvania. “It gave us a little confidence that we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.
WVMetroNews – Lottery compares notes with Pennsylvania on iGaming https://t.co/bfxk3b6RoM
— Jeff Jenkins (@JeffJenkinsMN) December 25, 2019
A group of Lottery Commission officials traveled to Pennsylvania. The primary discovery, according to Myers, was that the sports betting platforms in place will help with online gambling. “The initial build-out of the iGaming system…they can almost take the new games, which will come in a suite, and they can lay that right on top of a sports wagering-type of platform,” he said.
Myers also added, “It’s not going to be as labor intensive or to take as long to get out as sports wagering.”
That means the process is likely to move faster than Myers and others originally anticipated. According to Myers, they are looking at a time frame of May to June to put the emergency rules in place.
— Shawn Fluharty (@WVUFLU) December 26, 2019
Many Steps Await
There was one part of Myers’ statement that was somewhat unclear. He said, “The May to June timeframe, so that will allow us, with the time that we’re allotted to get the permanent rule in place to get beyond the legislative session (in 2021) and file the permanent rule.”
This may indicate that the anticipated launch remains somewhere in 2021.
In fact, there are quite a few things that still need to be done.
After the emergency rules are in place, it seems that the licensing process will begin. However, no online poker or gambling operator has yet stepped up to announce a partnership with any of the five land-based properties in West Virginia. Those are:
–The Casino Club at the Greenbrier
–Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races (operated by Penn National Gaming)
–Mardi Gras Casino and Resort (owned by Delaware North)
–Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort (owned by Eldorado Resorts)
–Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack (owned by Delaware North)
One partnership that seemed inevitable might not be so. PokerStars is partnered with Eldorado Resorts in the American market, so Mountaineer Casino seems likely to offer online poker under the Stars Group brand of FOX Bet. However, Eldorado is in the process of acquiring Caesars Entertainment, which would then put the Mountaineer closer to Caesars and a WSOP-branded online site alongside 888poker.
At least one or two partnerships should be announced in the first half of 2020, as the licensing process nears it beginning with the application window set to open.
For now, everyone waits for further word from Myers and the West Virginia Lottery Commission.
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