On Friday, the West Virginia House of Representatives passed a bill that, if signed into law, would legalize online poker as well as other forms of online gaming in the state. After passing the House 72 to 22 without the vote of six representatives, the House Bill is now in the Senate where it is to be considered in both the Judiciary Committee and the Finance Committee. Hopefully, it will pass through both committees after which it will be set before the state’s governor who will then sign it into law.
Proponents of online gambling certainly have a lot to look forward to with West Virginia slated to be the fifth state to legalize online poker. However, it is perhaps too early to celebrate especially considering the many hurdles that have cropped up in recently, the biggest one being the recent revised opinion on the Wire Act of 1961 by the United States Department of Justice. Set to be implemented in a little over a month’s time the new DOJ opinion will prohibit West Virginia or any other state that has legalized online poker from playing the game online with players from other states. In other words, online poker in the specified states will be confined within their borders.
What This Means for West Virginia
Well, the state only has a population of 2 million which is definitely not sufficient enough to support the online poker industry by itself. With the way everything is progressing, by the time the state’s governor signs the online gaming bill into law, it might be too late since the shared liquidity agreements will have been disbanded.
The confinement of the state’s online poker industry within its borders is expected to limit its ability to house a successful online poker market and this can be seen from a number of states that tried to segregate their online poker markets with little to no luck. Europe is also a typical example of the importance of shared liquidity in the world of online poker – after years of declining gaming revenue figures, countries that had previously segregated their online poker industries took a different approach that involved working together. Last year, each of the countries that chose to enter the online poker share liquidity agreement reported increased revenues, proof that shared liquidity is quite important.
In the United States, the strict nature of the new interpretation of the Wire Act of 1961 is capable of completely crippling the online poker industry. As such, the only way to ensure that this does not happen is to have the opinion reversed as soon as possible. In the meantime, all we can do is wait and see how the oncoming showdown between gaming interests and the DOJ plays out.