Things may seem to have gone fairly quiet on the poker front in the United States recently – at least, as far as the legalisation of the industry in different states goes. Yet, things are actually progressing quite well in some areas.
Take West Virginia, for example. This week, a new gaming bill managed to get over its first very significant barrier this week, providing a positive outlook for the state’s online gambling sector. House Bill 2934 was actually introduced last week, and it requests that all state casinos be allowed to offer their games, including poker, in an online setup. This would run alongside their current land-based operations.
Lawmakers within The Mountain State are trying to have this bill passed through quite swiftly. West Virginia already provides legal sports betting to its residents, being one of just eight US locations to do so. As of Tuesday, voters in the House Judiciary Committee elected to take the bill through to a full vote within the House of Representatives. That will mark a second key turning point in its journey towards becoming fully legal.
What Are All the Details Behind the Bill?
Should the bill be passed and brought into effect, the new Act would give the five land-based casinos in West Virginia the opportunity to provide a full selection of games online. There are four main points to keep in mind, should this become a reality. They are as follows:
- A fee of $250,000 would be required from each of the casinos to receive a five-year operating licence.
- Black market gaming operators would be prosecuted by new criminal laws being brought into effect.
- Oversight of all online gambling operations would be done by the West Virginia Lottery Commission.
- A tax rate of 15% would be imposed on all operators providing online gaming.
It is the very last of these points that became quite the topic of discussion when the bill passed through this week. Delegate Tom Fast spoke about increasing that tax to 35% instead of 15%. However, his request was balked at by supporters of the bill, with another Delegate, Shawn Fluharty commenting that the legislation would be killed off by a 35% tax rate.
Following the outcome of the vote being in favour of the bill, it now rests in lawmakers’ hands to try and speed up the process of it being voted on by the House of Representatives. West Virginia’s Legislative session will come to an end on March 9, so there’s just a short two-week period for it to be passed through.
Yet, supporters of the bill remain enthusiastically optimistic, and with good reason. Lawmakers within the state have frequently shown progressive attitudes towards gaming, especially in terms of poker. This was classed as a game of skill in 2017, giving more hints towards their pro-poker attitudes.
If the House of Representatives does pass the bill through before March 9, then it will move on to the state governor, Jim Justice. Could West Virginia be the next state to legalise online gambling and, in the process, online poker?