Gambling and Poker Laws Reviewed in West Virginia
2020 Update: Can I Play Online Poker in West Virginia?
Online poker is legal in West Virginia. After years of trying, bill HB 3067 cleared the West Virginia House, Senate and went to Gov. Jim Justice in March 2019. Gov. Justice didn’t veto the bill and it became law.
The bill also allowed for online slots and casino games, but the state is only awarding five licenses. These licenses are tied to the state’s five land-based casinos. Licenses start at $250,000 with a five-year renewal of $100,000. The West Virginia Lottery Commission will regulate online gaming and it’s still hammering out the rules. There’s still a bit to go for there to be state-run sites though. Local experts expect the state won’t launch official sites until 2021.
Online Poker and Gambling Laws in West Virginia
Online poker gaming is now law in West Virginia. It’s the most recent addition to a book with lots of gambling laws. West Virginia was one of the first states to legalize gaming in the region. There are several forms of legal gambling in West Virginia. We’ll go over those in the next section, but for now let’s see how the Mountain State defines gambling.
State statute 61-10-5 says “betting on games of chance; furnishing money or thing of value therefore; penalty”:
“If any person at any place, public or private, bet or wage money or other thing of value on any game of chance, or shall knowingly furnish any money or other thing of value to any other person to bet or wage on any such game, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be fined.”
Another statute, 61-10-4, discussed “playing or betting at gaming tables and devices; playing or betting on games at hotels and public places; penalty”:
“If any person bet or play at any such gaming table, bank or device as is mentioned in the first section of this article, or if, at any hotel or tavern, or other public place, or place of public resort, he play at any game except bowls, chess or backgammon, draughts or a licensed game, or bet on the sides of those who play at any game, whether the game be permitted or licensed or not, he shall be guilty.”
Violating these statutes results in a misdemeanor along with potential fines or jail time. A federal judge ruled that poker is a game of skill, but new online poker laws ensure that online poker has a green light in West Virginia.
Can I Play Poker on PokerStars in West Virginia?
While West Virginia recently legalized online poker, you still can’t play PokerStars there. The state still hasn’t officially launched its state-regulated sites. There’s a chance PokerStars will become available in West Virginia soon, but it’s currently only available to players in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
You’re still going to have to wait a bit to play on state-run sites in West Virginia, but luckily there are already a few good alternatives that rival PokerStars in quality, tournaments and outright fun. We’ve reviewed plenty of sites that accept players from all 50 states, including West Virginia. Ignition Poker and Americas Cardroom are two sites that we’ve reviewed that are great PokerStars alternatives. If you want to read more about these sites and more, check out our reviews below:
Legal Gambling in West Virginia
West Virginia offers a state lottery, pari-mutuel wagering, racetracks, commercial casinos and charitable gaming. Let’s look a closer look at some of them:
The West Virginia Lottery started in November 1984 after voters passed a lottery amendment to the state constitution. The first instant scratch tickets were sold on January 9, 1986. In 1988, they became a charter member of the Multi-State Lottery Association’s Lotto America game, now known as the Powerball.
In 1989, lawmakers dedicated lottery profits to education, senior citizens, and tourism programs. Soon after, they included elementary, secondary, and higher education.
The lottery stretched its wings in 1994. That year, West Virginia lawmakers passed legislation allowing slot-machine style video lottery terminals at racetracks. For more information you can find the West Virginia Lottery Commission’s contact information here.
However, West Virginia’s lottery generated almost $10.4 billion for state residents since it started.
Commercial casinos were legalized in 1994, but they have a long history in West Virginia. Currently, most of the existing casinos have roots that date back to the 1930s or even the 18th century. For example, the Greenbrier was originally built in 1858. However, the current Greenbrier building was finished in 1913.
The number of casinos in West Virginia currently stands at five. They do around $1 billion in annual revenue and The Casino Club at The Greenbrier is a popular destination. It attracts people from all over the world. The other four casinos are the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, Mardi Gras Casino and Resort, Mountaineer Casino.
Racetracks are what started gaming in West Virginia. Both horse racing and greyhound racing started in the state back in the 1930s. As of today, sports still have a strong presence in the state.
West Virginia has four racetracks across the state. They offer horse and dog racing as well as slots table games and sportsbooks. The tracks also offer simulcast. The tracks are all under the purview of the West Virginia Racing Commission. The four racetracks had about $458 million handle in 2017.
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