West Virginia Dems want to give racinos online gambling options


west-virginia-lottery-online-gamblingWest Virginia has become the latest US state to seek legal online gambling within its borders.

Tuesday saw the introduction of HB 3067 into the West Virginia House of Delegates. The bill, introduced by five Democratic delegates, seeks to authorize the West Virginia Lottery Commission to oversee the licensing and regulation of online poker, casino and race betting options for local gamblers.

HB 3067 limits potential online gambling licensees to the state’s four racetrack casino operators, who are currently authorized to offer video lottery terminals and table games at their facilities. Licenses would cost $50k and online licensees would pay 14% tax on their gross gaming revenue.

The bill allows for the state’s licensees to partner with online gambling technology providers, but operators will be required to market their online gambling portals using their own brand name, “not the brands of third parties,” to ensure that “actual control and supervision remains with the licensed entity.”

HB 3067 also permits the state to enter into interstate compacts with other online-friendly states or territories within the United States. Should federal politicians approve online gambling operations, the federal tax rate would supersede the state’s plan.

HB 3067 contains penalties for operators who dare to compete with state-licensed online gambling sites, with fines of up to $150k and imprisonment for up to one year for a first offense, rising to $300k and three years in stripes for a second or subsequent infractions of this type. Unauthorized operators will also have to pay taxes on revenue derived from West Virginia punters, although paying these taxes isn’t a prophylactic against prosecution for operating without a license.

The West Virginia Lottery has been pushing for this online authority for years now, with former Lottery director John Musgrave saying as far back as 2013 that the state was “a little bit behind right now” in terms of recognizing online gambling as the wave of the future. In January, the Lottery got its latest director, attorney Alan Larrick.

The state’s racinos have been publicly complaining about falling revenue for years but it remains to be seen whether sufficient support for online gambling can be found among the state’s deeply conservative Republican pols.

HB 3067 follows last month’s filing of new sports betting legislation by West Virginia delegates. HB 2751 called for the West Virginia Lottery Commission to draft rules for legal “sports pool betting” in the state based on the state attorney general’s belief that the federal PASPA sports betting prohibition was guilty of usurping their state’s right to make its own decisions regarding legal gambling options.