On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, West Virginia became the latest state with a licensed online gaming economy, joining New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. The first legalized WV internet casino is operated by DFS leader DraftKings in partnership with Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. This news was announced in a statement by the West Virginia Lottery.
About the DraftKings West Virginia Casino
The DraftKings Casino was launched to complement the company’s preexisting sportsbook in The Mountain State, which debuted in August 2019. The casino can be accessed from the sports betting app, but there are also casino-specific apps for iOS and Android. For the moment, there is no desktop version of the software.
To the disappointment of online casino aficionados, the DraftKings WV app doesn’t contain any slots. Instead, customers can play table games, such as Blackjack, Roulette, and Three-Card Poker. In order to play, an individual must be at least 21 years old and has to be physically located within the borders of West Virginia.
The DraftKings West Virginia Casino Lobby
West Virginia was one of the first states to debut legalized sports betting in the wake of the May 2018 Supreme Court ruling that the federal ban on this activity was invalid. DraftKings duly opened an online sportsbook in the state in August 2019.
Meanwhile, the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act was passed into law in March 2019, granting the West Virginia Lottery supervisory powers over a newly established market for online poker sites and casinos. However, there was a lengthy process of drafting rules, vetting applicants, and awarding licenses before any online casinos could appear in West Virginia.
Finally, in May 2020, the West Virginia Lottery filed emergency rules for internet gaming (including both casino and poker) with the Secretary of State. These regulations were shortly approved during a meeting of the Lottery Commission.
Having launched an online casino in Pennsylvania just this May and following up with a standalone casino app in New Jersey in June, DraftKings was already on a roll. This latest casino rollout confirms that this organization is serious about deploying its products in state-licensed markets throughout the country as they become active.
Poker on the Way?
We haven’t received any word on the launch of interactive poker in West Virginia anytime soon. However, the speed with which the first internet casino appeared following the drafting of the emergency rules surprised many, and if the West Virginia Lottery is serious about adding poker to the menu too, then we could see peer-to-peer card games within a few months.
Also of note is the fact that WV officials met with their peers in Pennsylvania earlier this year to learn how to properly set up interactive gaming. Poker was definitely on the agenda during these meetings.
Now, DraftKings is not known for its poker room, and in fact, it does not offer one in any of the states in which it transacts. But there are other firms in the WV gambling economy that are likely candidates for an eventual online poker presence.
The most notable of them is Flutter, which already operates an online sportsbook in conjunction with The Greenbrier Casino in White Sulphur Springs under its FanDuel brand. Flutter acquired The Stars Group in a $6 billion deal in late 2019. Therefore, PokerStars is well-positioned to become the inaugural licensed online poker site in the state.
Interstate Compact Possibilities
With a population of just 1.8 million, West Virginia is almost certainly too small to support an independent online poker ecosystem. New Jersey, with a population more than four times greater and a much more robust tourism sector, has had problems maintaining sufficient online poker player liquidity.
The possibility of entering an online poker compact to improve traffic levels has already been contemplated by West Virginia leaders as evidenced by the following language from the iGaming emergency rules:
19.1. The Commission may authorize an operator in West Virginia to participate in interactive gaming with patrons located in jurisdictions outside of West Virginia pursuant to a reciprocal agreement that has been entered into by the State of West Virginia, if the Commission determines that such wagering is not inconsistent with federal law or the law of the jurisdiction in which any such patrons are located or such wagering is conducted.
Yet, the legality of such interstate gaming agreements has been called into question by the Department of Justice. Although the government lost an important case against New Hampshire regarding this interpretation of the law, the case is still tied up in appeals. It’s likely that West Virginia will not pursue any online gambling compacts until there’s some resolution of this legal mess.
Better Options Available
The new casino by DraftKings is really nothing special given the limited lineup of titles available at launch. You might prefer to instead play at one of the many offshore casinos that accept West Virginians as customers. You won’t be breaking any laws by doing so. Read this rundown of the best online casinos for Americans to get started.
If you’re upset by the lack of poker options online in West Virginia, then you needn’t be. There are plenty of upstanding organizations that serve virtual card games to residents of the state. Check out this guide to online poker in West Virginia for more information. Even when regulated online poker arrives, you might find the offerings of these offshore brands to be superior.
If you reside elsewhere in the United States, then there are also many poker destinations online available to you. Browse over to this page filled with info about online poker in the USA.