West Virginia is better known for its majestic mountain ranges, coal mines, and logging industry than casinos but this is not to say it lacks alternatives for those who seek to gamble. The Mountain State is friendly to gamblers who can legally engage in casino gaming, sports betting, horse race betting, video gaming terminals, lotteries, and daily fantasy sports. Legal online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker are also available to West Virginians.
The state is home to five commercial casinos, four of which operate as part of the racetracks located in Wheeling, New Cumberland, Cross Lanes, and Charles Town. The Greenbrier Casino Club in White Sulphur Springs is the only commercial gaming venue that operates separately from a racetrack.
The Greenbrier Casino houses 37 tables for games like craps, baccarat, banked poker, blackjack, and roulette. Patrons can also take a spin on over 300 slot machines but the venue is only open to registered guests of the resort.
The commercial gambling industry has a massive impact on the Mountain State’s economy as it accounts for over $487 million in annual tax revenue and employs more than 8,300 West Virginians. The state’s five commercial casinos collectively generated $668 million in gross gambling revenue, which further goes to show how mature the local industry is.
Landbased Gambling Laws in West Virginia
A curious mixture of modern and old-fashioned laws governs the gambling industry of West Virginia. Gambling regulations are relatively lax here as the state allows for a wide range of operations, including lotteries, video lottery terminals, and table games.
Indian gaming remains unavailable for the time being since West Virginia has no federally recognized native tribes. The West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC) regulates most forms of legal gambling in the state. Let’s have a more in-depth look at the laws that govern brick-and-mortar gambling in the Mountain State.
Landbased License Types and Fees
All commercial gaming operations in West Virginia are subject to licensure. Racinos require video lottery operator and table game operator licenses. One of the requirements is for the pari-mutuel facility to hold a valid racing permit, issued by the West Virginia Racing Commission. The applicants must be of good character and preferably with clean criminal records. Authorized racinos must pay annual license fees of $500,000.
Gambling Taxes in West Virginia
The Racetrack Video Lottery Act outlines the tax rates imposed on authorized commercial gambling businesses in Section 29-22A-10. Licensed facilities that operate such machines can only retain 46.50% of their net profits while the remainder is used for the horse racing purses, employee pensions, and other racetrack-related programs. Table games are taxed at a rate of 35%, based on the adjusted gross receipts from their operation.
Responsible Gambling Policies
The minimum age for participation in casino-style gambling in West Virginia coincides with that for the rest of the country, i.e. 21 years old. Lotteries and raffles come with a lower minimum threshold of 18 years old. The local gambling statutes do not contain any specific provisions that impose restrictions on gambling-related advertising.
Legal Status of Online Casino Gambling
Legal online casinos arrived in the Mountain State in the first half of 2019 after House Bill 2934 passed into law as the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act (West Virginia Code, Chapter 29, Article 22E). The bill cleared the West Virginia Senate with 26 votes “for” and 6 votes “against” in early March 2019 before landing on the desk of Governor James Justice at the end of the same month. The Governor took no action and the bill passed into law without further consideration.
Sports Betting Regulation in West Virginia
West Virginia became the fifth US state with legal sports betting after local lawmakers approved wagering on sports in 2018. The Mountain State subsequently took its first legal sports bet at the end of August of the same year. These activities are regulated under the West Virginia Lottery Sports Wagering Act (Section 29-22D of the West Virginia Code).
Gambling Regulatory Bodies in West Virginia
The West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC) oversees most gambling businesses in the state, including retail VLT operators, commercial casinos, and sportsbooks. Created in the mid-1980s after the passage of the State Lottery Act, the WVLC consists of seven members, including an authorized public accountant, a lawyer, and a marketing expert.
The West Virginia governor chooses the members and appoints them with the consent of the state senate. The rules dictate that only four members of the regulatory body can belong to the same political party. The agency’s members can serve for five years and are eligible for reappointments after their terms expire.
Despite its small size, West Virginia has a developed gambling industry with a substantial contribution to the local economy. Four racinos and one stand-alone commercial casino have received authorization to operate landbased and remote casino-style gambling. In-person and mobile sports wagering is also available in the Mountain State.
What is more, West Virginia is likely to witness further gambling expansion in the future. The Senate approved a bill earlier in 2022 that could possibly enable the four racetracks to launch second casinos in their counties if it moves forward. The state’s sports wagering legislation also underwent amendments recently to allow for legal wagering on esports.