West Virginia says yes to online poker, no to sports gambling

The Mountain State is slowly warming up to gambling

There’s some good news and some bad news coming out of West Virginia. Lawmakers in the Senate last Friday overwhelmingly approved the Lottery Interactive Wagering Act (LIWA), which paves the way for online poker and other forms of gaming to be legalized in the state. That same day, online sports gambling operations were shut down – not by the government, but because of a dispute between the sportsbooks and a technology provider.

The LIWA now returns to the House for further consideration. The House has already approved the bill, but changes made in the Senate need to be considered for the legislation to proceed. If it all goes well, the LIWA will then go to Governor Jim Justice for his signature.

Justice most likely won’t sign the bill. Not because he doesn’t agree to it, but because it could be a conflict of interest. The governor owns the Greenbrier hotel resort in the Allegheny Mountains, which offers a casino. By keeping his hands off the legislation and neither vetoing nor approving it, he can remain neutral throughout the process. If he takes this approach, the bill would become law five days after reaching his desk.

The bill would allow five licenses to be awarded in the state at $250,000 a pop. Operations would be taxed at 15%, which is expected to produce around $3.9 million in tax revenue each year.

West Virginia’s sports gambling scene encountered a setback last Friday when the Mardi Gras and Wheeling Islands casinos halted the activity. The casinos are owned by Delaware North, who had partnered with BetLucky to offer online sportsbooks, but a contract dispute muddied the waters. Delaware North was operating the sportsbooks through a provider, Miomni Gaming, which had become embroiled in a fight with a third-party tech provider. That fight led to the closing of both online and land-based sports gambling operations in the state.

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