West Virginia Online Gaming Bill Introduced
West Virginia became the seventh state this year to have a bill which would legalize and regulated online poker introduced in its legislature, as Delegate Shawn Fluharty put forth House Bill 3067 on Tuesday. The bill currently resides in the House Judiciary Committee.
The bill’s introduction lays out the reasons to legalize online gambling, stating, “….legalization of video lottery and table games in West Virginia has delivered substantial benefits to the state, including the creation of thousands of significant contributions to racing and agricultural industries.”
“Developments in technology and recent legal decisions have created an opportunity to legalize interactive poker as a means to further enhance and complement the benefits delivered by casino gaming and licensed facilities to or for the benefit of the communities in which they operate,” it continues.
The bill would require online gaming operators to have various measures in place ensure nobody under the age of 21 can gamble, players are located within West Virginia’s borders, cheating is prevented, problem gambling is minimized and problem gamblers have resources for assistance, players’ account information is secure, and player funds are segregated from operating funds.
Obviously, even with all the technology in the world, no system is completely fool proof, so fortunately the bill uses the phrase “to a reasonable degree of certainty” with several of the requirements.
Interstate gaming compacts are also permitted in order to grow the online poker player pool. In fact, they are straight-up encouraged:
To the extent practicable, the commission shall negotiate interactive gaming agreements with other states, territories or possessions of the United States in which interactive gaming has been authorized to allow players in this state to participate in authorized games with players in such other jurisdictions.
Should HB 3067 pass, the West Virginia Lottery Commission would be in charge of licensing and regulation. This is common in bills of this sort; some place online gaming in the hands of the state lottery commission, while others create an entire new internet gaming office.
As for who would be eligible to be licensed, Fluharty’s bill is also quite similar to those in other states. Current facilities licensed for gambling would be able to apply for licenses. Those licensed would be downright cheap compared to other states, as well, as the licensing fee would be just $50,000. The tax rate would be 14 percent of gross gaming revenue, which is within the standard range of other bills as well as states that currently have legalized online gambling.
There are five casinos in West Virginia. Four are racinos – combination race tracks and casinos. One, the Casino Club at The Greenbrier, is not open to the general public. Interestingly, it is open “only to overnight resort guests, members of The Greenbrier Sporting Club and The Greenbrier Golf & Tennis Club, as well as attendees of an event or convention staying off-property when more than 400 rooms are occupied.”
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