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West Virginia Eyes Summer Start for iGaming

West Virginia’s 2019 iGaming bill giving the state lottery commission more than a year to draft and implement regulations at the state's five casinos. The commission will submit them May 15, so means online gambling could start in July. The public is ready, says Lottery Director John Myers (l.).

Online gambling in West Virginia could launch as early as July, instead of late 2020 or early 2021 as originally anticipated. Public demand is at a peak with the state’s casinos closed due to Covid-19, said Lottery Director John Myers.

According to Myers, the commission recently approved a 39-page emergency rule regulating iGaming in the state; the iGaming bill that passed in 2019 gave commissioners more than a year to create and implement regulations at the state’s five casinos. Those rules will be submitted to the secretary of state by May 15; the office has 42 days to approve or reject them.

“Our emergency rules were already being finalized when the pandemic hit,” Myers said. “All that remains is approval by the secretary of state and the approval of our minimum internal controls by the lottery commission. It is conceivable that some of our iGaming operators could be up and running as early as June or July under the emergency rules.”

The legislature could give final approval in next year’s session. Before then, the rule could change following a public comment period and legislative review during the 2021 session, he added.

Getting online gambling up and running will not be as labor-intensive or take as long as sports betting. “The initial build-out of the iGaming system, they can almost take the new games, which will come in a suite, and they can lay that right on top of a sports wagering-type of platform,” Myers noted.

The emergency rule gives the lottery commission the authority to grant interim licenses for up to 270 days while applicants are fully vetted. The gaming sites will be able to offer live-dealer casino games, such as poker. Each of the state’s casinos will be able to have up to three online partnerships. Like sports betting rules, players must be physically located within the state.

Myers said he anticipates revenue similar to sports betting, which is taxed at 10 percent, similar to casinos and mobile apps. “The tax rate is 15 percent in iGaming and 10 percent in sports wagering but with the number of people we have I expect the same revenue generation,” Myers said.

Myers said the emergency rule includes three pages of civil penalties that can be applied to anyone who breaks the law. “Hopefully, this can act as a deterrent to any type of that activity,” he said.

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