On Wednesday, March 27, West Virginia’s interactive gaming legislation officially became law after Jim Justice, the state’s billionaire Republican governor failed to take any action on the measure. The bill was pushed to governor’s desk on March 9 and he was given 15 days (excluding Sundays) to either pass the bill into law or veto but he instead opted to take no action and therefore according to state laws, the measure automatically became law.
As it turns out, the governor did something similar with a sports betting bill that was forward to his desk in 2018. However, after taking a deeper look, it might be argued that the decision not to act in both cases might have been a strategic move. It is widely known that the billionaire governor’s family has ties to a casino property which means that the vetoing the bill would be like shooting himself on the leg and signing it into law would have the appearance of impropriety. Letting things play out the way they did was, therefore, the very best option.
A Handful of Licenses to Go Around
The state’s five licensed land-based casino operators will now be able to apply for the interactive gaming licenses which will be going for $250,000 apiece. These licenses will be renewed every five years for $100,000 and the casinos would still be subject to a 15 percent tax rate that is quite reasonable especially when compared to some monstrous tax rates that are part of gaming laws in some casinos. Platform and service providers that will be interested in offering their services in the state will also need to acquire licenses which will be going for $100,000 apiece. These licenses will be awarded by the West Virginia Lottery which has been given until mid-2020 to finalize on the online gaming laws
West Virginia joins Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to become the fifth state to legalize interactive gaming. Until three months ago, there was the possibility of all these states merging their online poker pools but thanks to the reinterpretation of the 1961 Wire Act by the United States Department of Justice, the possibilities of this grows thinner by the day – it is already bad as it is. West Virginia would have greatly benefited from this arrangement since it does not have populations that are as huge as New Jersey’s and Pennsylvania’s.
While a number of lawsuits have been filed against the Department of Justice, it seems like there is very little chance the things will change. In fact, the DOJ is readying for a fight and is not showing any signs of considering the reversal of the opinion.