West Virginia

west-virginiaAs one of only a few north-eastern states bordered by five others, West Virginia’s gambling and legal real money poker betting culture has been largely influenced by that of its closest neighbors. Simultaneously embracing Kentucky’s love of live casinos, Virginia’s caution and Pennsylvania’s aggression, the Mountain State is one state where the issue of regulated online gambling and Internet poker websites could go one of several different ways. On one hand, some WV state officials are arguing that iGaming real cash Internet poker gambling is the future and must be considered as part of the state’s long-term revenue streams, while others are content to focus on its burgeoning land-based casino and live poker betting industry.

If anything, the biggest hurdle facing proponents of legal Internet poker gambling is West Virginia’s relatively small population of 1.855 million. Paling in comparison to neighboring Virginia and Pennsylvania, West Virginia’s sparse population demands that interstate Internet poker compacts be formed before the online poker websites scene in the Mountain State could thrive.

Making a wager on the virtual green table whilst in The Mountain State is easy as long as you know the right real money US poker sites to play at.

West Virginia Lottery Director Speaks in Favor of Online Gambling Legislation

In early 2013, West Virginia’s Lottery Director John Musgrave went on record with his feelings about real cash Internet poker, stating, ‘We need to discuss [iGaming]. It’s the way of the future’. Over the past several years, West Virginia’s lottery real money gambling revenues have been slipping. This is due, in part, to the recent influx of land-based casinos and poker betting venues being opened by neighboring states along borderlines – a trend that will likely continue if West Virginia’s neighbors embrace iGaming Internet poker websites.

In order to broaden its appeal, Musgrave believes West Virginia should offer forms of online gambling not readily available in other states. (This would probably not include games like Internet poker.) For instance, he feels that residents should be able to purchase Powerball and other lottery tickets from a mobile real cash gambling application [1].

Other legal real money gambling spokesmen in WV have noted that there is revenue potential for other online games, including Internet poker. However, legislation that calls for the regulation of such activities has yet to been considered by state officials in West Virginia. It appears that WV gambling lawmakers are more concerned with the state’s newly-expanded land-based casino and real cash poker room operation than with lawful Internet poker gambling.

Can Players from West Virginia Play Online Poker?

YesWhile we can’t guarantee that you won’t be the victim of a bad beat at top poker websites, residents of West Virginia should have little problem registering an Internet poker account at one of many real cash poker websites. Take a look at our homepage, where we regularly update our list of the best poker websites, all of which readily accept Texas Hold’em and other poker players from West Virginia.

Our most highly recommended real money poker websites accept multiple forms of payment, including credit cards and MoneyGram, and are known for their fast, reliable payout speeds.

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Is Online Poker Legal in West Virginia?

MaybeBecause there is no Internet poker legislation that specifically addresses the issue of playing for real cash at online poker gambling websites, its legality remains in question.

West Virginia’s gambling and poker betting laws are particular vague and confounding, and thus, it is recommended that you seek legal counsel to help you better understand your Internet poker options. And while we’re no authority on the subject of legal real money poker websites, we have thoroughly examined the state of WV’s gambling statures and dug up several points of interest for Internet poker gambling fans. Hopefully our research helps you make a more informed decision:

  • West Virginia’s gambling statues use the words gambling, gaming and gaming device quite liberally. Unfortunately, definitions for these terms are notably absent, leaving much of the law about poker betting up to individual interpretation.
  • The law is very specific regarding gambling losses, stating that: If any person shall lose to another within twenty-four hours ten dollars or more in real money, or property of that value, and shall pay or deliver the same, or any part thereof, such loser may cover back from the winner the real money or property, or in lieu of the property the value thereof, so lost, by suit of court. It goes onto state that the losses can only be collected from the winner, and not a third party. Chapter 55-9-2.
  • According to Chapter 61-10-1, anyone who possesses a gambling table like a Texas Hold’em poker table, slot machine or other device used for gambling purposes is subject to a misdemeanor. If someone knowingly permit[s] a gaming table, bank or device, they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction, shall be confined in West Virginia jail not more than one year, and be fined not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand dollars.
  • Chapter 61-10-5 outlaws games of chance, although what constitutes a game of chance is never defined and it’s unclear if real cash poker gambling falls into this category.
  • Establishments that permit gambling or poker betting, whether public or private, are subject to penalty, leading one to infer that home real money poker games are technically illegal in the state, even if they do not take a rake.
  • Like Virginia, West Virginia frowns upon cheaters. Regardless of whether a gambling or poker betting activity is legal or not, cheaters are guilty of a misdemeanor, and can be confined in jail not more than one year and fined not less than five times the value of the money or thing won or acquired.

In reality, no resident of West Virginia has been arrested for playing poker online at Internet poker websites.

To read the full length version of West Virginia’s gambling and poker betting statues [2], please refer to the References section.


The Facts

The History of Gambling in West Virginia

Back when West Virginia was still considered part of Virginia, early settlers gambled on cards like poker betting games, dice and large underground lotteries, much like they did throughout the other colonies. Due to its western location, gambling and real cash betting spread slower in West Virginia than it did elsewhere, but by the 1700s it was still widely prevalent – so much so, that legislators made a series of attempts to outlaw legal gambling completely. But most of West Virginia’s residents chose to ignore early anti-gambling and betting laws.

In the early 1900s, the mob infiltrated the area. It was at this point that the state’s law enforcement agencies began to enforce anti-gambling and poker betting laws with vigor. By the middle of the century, most of the mob presence withdrew from the state of WV, seeking to establish underground real money poker gambling playgrounds elsewhere.

In 1926, West Virginia opened its first greyhound racing track, followed seven years later by a bill legalizing real cash betting on racing. It is believed that these measures were taken in response to the crippling effects of the Great Depression. During the 1930s and 40s horseracing thrived in WV, as it still does today.

An amendment legalizing real cash betting on the state lottery was passed in 1984. The West Virginia Lottery was quickly established, followed two years later by the launch of the state’s first legit and regulated lottery. Video poker real money games and other slot machines were installed in the state’s racetracks during the Great Recession of the early 1990s and in 2007, a referendum allowing for table games like Texas Hold’em poker in Ohio County passed by a nearly 2:1 margin. A similar referendum was rejected by the voters of Jefferson County on the very same day [3]. However, by 2010, the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races would also host table games, including real cash poker gambling [4].

Online poker players in West Virginia can enjoy some of the top online poker sites around even though Internet-based gaming is not sanctioned by the state.

Regulated Gambling Options in West Virginia

Despite the lack of online poker legislation and state sponsored lawful WV Internet poker websites, there is no dearth of regulated poker gambling and real money betting options in West Virginia. That’s not to say the state’s gambling sphere of influence extends as far as say Nevada’s, but West Virginia offers its inhabitants a modest host of betting activities, including Texas Hold’em poker.

Charitable gambling, pari-mutuel betting and placing real cash betting wagers on the outcome of horseraces are all deemed legal by WV state officials, in so long as the wagering is done at a regulated gambling facility. And as of 2007, commercial casinos and live real money poker rooms are also permitted. The commercial casinos currently operating in the state are:

  • Hollywood Casino At Charles Town Races – features Blackjack, Roulette and a 50-table real cash poker room
  • Mardi Gras Casino and Resort – located in Nitro, it boasts the 24-table Charleston Poker Room for real money gambling.
  • Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort – a thoroughbred racetrack and casino located in Chester sporting 50 table games and a legal poker room [5].
  • Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack – Lawful poker and other table games were added to Wheeling Island after the passage of a 2007 referenda.
  • The Casino Club at The Greenbrier – An exclusive casino only available to guests of the Greenbrier.

West Virginia’s lottery is unique in that it sells traditional paper slips and also offers video operated real money betting terminals. The state lottery has proven to be a large source of revenue for West Virginia.

The one type of gambling not offered by West Virginia is Tribal gaming.

The Future of Regulated Online Gambling in West Virginia

The prospects of regulated online gambling and legit Internet poker coming to West Virginia looks neither look good nor bad. While it certainly won’t be among the next wave of states to implement iGaming real cash poker website gambling regulations, it shouldn’t lag too far behind either.

The Lottery Commission is currently examining the pros and cons of online gambling and Internet poker, with some officials concluding that despite the risks, iGaming poker websites are a worthwhile venture, and will inevitably make its way into West Virginia.

Total tax revenue from the state’s commercial casinos, legal real money poker rooms and racetracks exceeds $400 million – a number that would only grow if Internet poker and gambling was regulated.


The Bottom Line

Like so many other states on or near the east coast, West Virginia is adopting a wait-and-see philosophy towards online poker Internet poker websites. The economy is currently in the midst of a financial crisis, which prompted Lottery officials to examine the prospect of iGaming Internet poker more carefully. Their results of their research may very well manifest in legislative form before the end of 2017. The expansion of West Virginia’s brick and mortar casinos and real money poker venues only serves to reinforce this possibility.

So while it will likely be a few years before any real cash Internet poker legislature is signed into law, the odds of West Virginia entering the lawful poker websites market relatively soon are decisively in its favor. But even if it does, online Internet poker will have a hard time finding its footing without interstate poker website compacts in place – 1.8 million residents and low tourist appeal is simply not enough to keep a legit real money Internet poker market going.


References

[1] Lottery director says online gaming needs to be discussed

[2] West Virginia Code

[3] West Virginia table game referenda results

[4] Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races

[4] Mountaineer Casino

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