Could online poker hit the Mountain State in 2015? According to a report in the Charleston Daily Mail, the West Virginia lottery is considering whether to expand into online gaming to combat competition from surrounding states.
Preliminary discussions are already underway as revealed by state lottery director John Musgrave. He met with the state’s Lottery Commission on Tuesday and revealed that a meeting was held last month between lottery officials and state casino executives to discuss the viability of online gambling expansion.
Declining revenues are partially to blame for the sudden interest in iGaming expansion. According to Musgrave, “We’re still seeing a decline (in revenue). We still are experiencing competition as the new casinos are coming on in Maryland and some in Ohio. That hasn’t plateaued.”
Moreover, declines are expected to escalate in one WV county. The Hancock County Board of Health passed an indoor smoking ban on Tuesday that will directly affect the Mountaineer Casino in Chester. According to casino executives, the new ban may result in revenue declines of up to 20%.
State May Be Able to Offer Some Online Gaming Without Legislation
If the WV Lottery wants to offer games such as poker or blackjack, then state gaming laws would have to be modified like those in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.
However, the Lottery could move forward with putting certain lottery games online without the need for legislative approval.
Musgrave believes that making Mega Millions, Hot Lotto and Powerball available through a smartphone app would not need legislative consent. Under the app, they could purchase tickets and collect their winnings online.
Still in the Planning Stages
Despite their interest to expand, don’t expect online gambling this year. The next meeting between casino executives and the Lottery is not set until late October in Charleston.
Musgrave shared after Tuesday’s meeting, “We’re still exploring (online gaming) because we feel that’s the way the industry’s moving, so we want to plan for it. We have not yet made any decision for how we’re going to implement it, but we are looking at it, studying it and seeing how our casinos in our jurisdiction can move in that direction.”
What Could iGaming in West Virginia Look Like?
The West Virginia Lottery released few details on their plans for iGaming in the state but one has to assume that we will see a similar setup as Delaware, including the potential for a single-provider setup.
Should West Virginia elect to use a single-provider setup, 888 Poker would immediately become a frontrunner due to their experience in operating gaming sites in Delaware. Using 888 would also help facilitate future online compacts with other states since the company has a footprint in every legalized market.