CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Lottery will have more than year to develop and implement regulations for iGaming run through the Mountain State’s five casinos if Governor Jim Justice signs into law the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act.
Delegate Jason Barrett (D-Berkeley, 61) was the lead sponsor of the legislation which was finalized on Saturday’s final day of the regular legislative session after a 26-7 vote from the state Senate last Friday and a 72-22 House vote on Feb. 22.
In general, the bill clears the way for currently land-based casino games to be played on electronic devices.
“I’m not surprised that we got it passed. I’m surprised that it sailed through as easily as it did,” Barrett told MetroNews.
Currently, three states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware — have legal online casinos. Online poker is legal in Nevada.
For West Virginia, “Online poker and blackjack would be what I would think would be, probably, the top games,” Barrett said.
The specific offerings, though, will be up to the casinos under the legalization.
“Right now, online poker is illegal and it’s being done overseas and there are certainly some concerns there with the integrity of the games as well as making sure players are paid because it’s (currently) completely unregulated being offshore,” said Barrett.
Under the legislation, the West Virginia Lottery has until June 2020 to finalize initial rules for licensing and regulation of online gaming. That means, it could launch by late 2020 at the earliest but that’s only an estimate at this point.
Barrett said the additional implementation time was included in the bill at the Lottery’s request.
“I wanted to make sure that it was something they were agreeable to and comfortable with so, for that reason, I don’t anticipate a veto (from Governor Justice),” Barrett said.
“We kind of brought everybody to the table to make sure operators were on board, to make sure the Lottery was on board and that we could get the votes in the Legislature as well.”
Governor Justice is the owner of The Greenbrier Resort, home to one of the five casinos that will have the option of taking gambling online under the legislation if it becomes law.
In the past year, West Virginia joined the short list of states with legal sportsbooks at casinos.