A new bill in West Virginia aims to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2017, making West Virginia the seventh state to introduce legislation for this. All of this comes amidst shrinking gaming revenues.
House Bill 3067 aims to legalize interactive gaming provided that the Lottery Commission regulates it by providing operations controls, providing prohibitions and criminal penalties, and incorporating rules and statutes applicable to interactive gaming. The proposal suggests that developments in technology have opened the door for legalization of interactive poker in order to reap the financial benefits that casino and gaming facilities provide to their communities and the state.
The gaming revenue tax rate is currently at 14 percent and any current licensed gaming facilities and race tracks could apply for an internet gambling license for a fee of $50,00. This fee is comparatively lower than the multi-million-dollar fees the other states are proposing. California, Pennsylvania, New York, Hawaii, Michigan, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have also proposed to legalize online betting in 2017.
The state of West Virginia is home to five brick-and-mortar casinos. In the fiscal year for 2007 the state experienced its most successful year financially, raking in $972.6 million. However, last year the state’s casinos only brought in $638.5 million and the start of 2017 appears to be even less promising, financially.
A report from the American Gaming Association attributes this significant financial deficit to the uptick of competition in the surrounding states. There are as many as 28 casinos that have opened in the past ten years, all of them based in three of the five states bordering West Virginia. Just last year a MGM Resorts opening in Maryland, which is only an hour away from Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, making it a superior destination for residents of Washington D.C.
For existing gaming facilities, typical gambling rules would be applied to the would-be online casinos. Operator’s are responsible for finding proof that participants are 21 years of age and that they are gambling in the state of West Virginia or another area in which online gambling is legal. Other measures would ensure that cheating or problem gambling of any kind would be prevented.
A few benchmarks would be put in place in order to guarantee these rules are met. A first offense would mean a misdemeanor charge, a fine ranging between $75,000 and $150,000 and, potentially, a year in prison. Any violators are held responsible for any taxes owed and repeat offenders would receive a felony charge, a fine up to $300,000 and up to 3 years in prison.
In 2014, when the gambling climate appeared to be changing and headed towards online gambling, West Virginia first expressed their interest in implementing online lottery based games and casinos. Although House Bill 3067 is still in its infancy, all signs point to West Virginia successfully legalizing online gaming.