All across the US, states are scrambling to put together gambling legislation that makes sense for each state’s residents. In the neighboring states of West Virginia and Virginia, it has quickly become a tale of two states headed in different directions.
In West Virginia, all forms of gambling (horse racing, charitable bingo, fantasy sports, casino, sports betting, lotteries) are now legal within the state’s boundaries with online gambling soon to come (see below). In Virginia, a more conservative approach has taken hold. While legislators are battling to get casino and sports betting in place for its resident, casinos in West Virginia are starting to flourish with the addition of sports betting.
In the latest news, it looks like West Virginia’s sports bettors and casino enthusiasts are on the verge of having their wildest dreams become a reality. With House Bill 2934 passing through the House with a vote of 72-22, the West Virginia State Senate will now get the opportunity to debate and vote on online gambling legislation for its residents. This important legislation was sponsored and introduced into Congress by Representative Shawn Fluharty (D).
As stated by HB 2934 “The Legislature finds that it is in the best interests of the State of West Virginia for the state to operate a lottery in the form of interactive wagering and that it is the intent of the Legislature to authorize interactive wagering within the state and through compacts with other approved jurisdictions.”
Furthermore, “An operator may accept wagers from an individual physically located in a state or jurisdiction with which the commission has entered into a[n] interactive wagering agreement using a mobile or other digital platform or a[n] interactive wagering device through the patron’s interactive wagering account, so long as the device or platform is approved by the commission and all other requirements of the agreement are satisfied.”
If the bill is going to meet any meaningful opposition, its likely to come from a senate that has struggled to push through gambling legislation in the past. It’s also quite possible that Republican Governor Jim Justice could pull the plug on the bill at the last moment due to possible conflicts with the DOJ over the 1961 Wire Act interpretation.
Virginia to Ban Sweepstakes Gambling Machines
In Virginia, the state legislature has moved to ban an already existing form of gambling, albeit disguised as something entirely different.
In a bill sponsored by Sen. Bryce Reeves, both houses unanimously pass legislation that bans access to sweepstakes gambling machines, often referred to as “Sham Sweepstakes” machines.
According to Reeves, the bill, which is expected to go into effect on July 1 of this year, "clarifies the existing code for prosecution of illegal gambling by specifically declaring illegal the so-called 'sham sweepstakes' machines." He added the legislation is "designed to make it easier for law enforcement to go after and prosecute these types of machines and establishments."
The machines operate as gambling devices by selling products to customers, who then get credits they can use to play games of chance for sweepstakes winnings.