On the heels of neighboring Pennsylvania legalizing online casino gaming and authorizing more brick-and-mortar gambling, West Virginia has officially decided to throw its hat into the internet betting ring.
Back in October, there was word that West Virginia would again debate the merits of allowing its casino industry to offer games over the web. Last week, the legislation, House Bill 3067, was formally introduced. It sits with a House legislative committee for a potential hearing in the coming weeks.
The lawmaker spearheading the efforts is State Delegate Shawn Fluharty, a Democrat. “With [Pennsylvania] passing sports betting, online poker and daily fantasy legislation today, [West Virginia] must act this session or be left in the dust,” Fluharty said on social media in late October.
The move makes sense for the struggling West Virginia gambling market. From January to October of last year, West Virginia’s five casinos won roughly $500 million from gamblers, more than seven percent less than what they collected during the same period the previous year. The casinos won $638.5 million from gamblers in 2016, 2.6 percent less than what was won in 2015. Gaming revenue was close to $1 billion annually about a decade ago. The expansion of Maryland’s gambling market has played a big role in West Virginia’s decline.
“Over the past decade, West Virginia’s casino industry has seen an explosion of competition from surrounding states,” said a report from the American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s top lobbying group. “In 2006, none of its neighbors had casinos.”
These days, there about 30 casinos operating in three of the five states that border West Virginia. The state’s largest casino, Hollywood Casinos at Charles Town Races, is in direct competition with Maryland’s D.C.-area MGM National Harbor, according to the AGA.