The History Of Gambling In West Virginia

Gambling in West Virginia
The History Of Gambling In West Virginia

West Virginia may not be as quick to legalize gambling as the other states, but they do a pretty good job overall. Greyhound races and horse betting play an important role in this state’s history, and people have been playing sports betting for a very long time. Although it is not one of the most liberal states, West Virginia still has a lot to offer to gamblers, and in this article, we’ll look at when it all started. What’s the history of gambling in West Virginia? Let’s answer this question together.

From Greyhound Races To Horse Gambling

If you read our other gambling in the US articles, you know that horse gambling is an important part of the history of many states. This is also true for West Virginia, but the greyhound races are of greater importance than horse betting. West Virginia has always liked to race the greyhounds, and by the end of the 1800s, the bets of these races were an important part of the state’s income. However, in 1863, because the governor of the time was quite conservative, all types of sports betting were banned. For nearly 70 years, gambling in West Virginia was considered an illegal activity.

Of course, this prohibition has not affected illegal sports betting in any way. The governor forgot to ban greyhound and horse races, and the prohibition only affected their bets. People still wagered for these races, but they did it “underground”: Illegal sports betting continued in West Virginia for a very long time. At that time, there were hardly any bets on other sports, and most people had never heard of slot machines, which was becoming popular in Nevada. The residents of West Virginia were happy to place race bets and this was the only type of gambling that was important to them.

By 1930, city officials realized that it was pointless to prohibit sports betting. Races and bets continued, but they could no longer earn tax revenues. Therefore, in 1931, greyhound and horse gambling were re-legalized. This led to the construction of new racetracks and made a significant contribution to the state’s economy. The Tri-State Race Track, which continues its activities today, was founded for the first time on this era. But nowadays, you know this track as “Mardi Gras Casino”.

The ‘80s and ‘90s: The Rise Of Poker

For nearly 50 years, horse betting was the only legal gambling available in West Virginia. However, the state now had many horse racing tracks, and the operators were providing hotel services right next to them. And like every hotel, they wanted to offer their guests gambling services too: They set up a lobby and started organizing campaigns to make the casino games legal. In the 80s, West Virginia residents had “discovered” poker and after the race bets, poker games were the most popular gambling type in the state. Underground gambling made a return: City officials couldn’t stop the high-stakes poker games organized by the mob. To have more control over the sector, they decided to make poker and slot games legal.

The proposed bill was related to video lottery games and the definition of these games was quite liberal. In other words, video poker and slot games can be considered as “lottery machines” too. Thanks to this bill, race tracks started to offer poker and slot games in their buildings, but other table games and sports betting were still not covered by the law. Moreover, the law had strict regulations: The number of licensed poker games could not exceed 9,000 in the entire state, and 40% of the revenue would be paid as tax. Despite these heavy terms, race track casinos have applied for a license. West Virginia earned a very high income from these applications, and once again understood how profitable the legal gambling could be.

The doors were now open: In 2007, the scope of the law was expanded and included all table games and internet poker games. As long as it is limited to poker, online gambling in West Virginia was now legal – this is still the case today. All of the casino games were also legalized, but only as long as they are offered in licensed land-based casinos. These were the race track casinos, which were now turned into resorts, and they grew bigger after the legal regulation. Online sports betting was still illegal and online gambling was limited to internet poker, but West Virginia had made a good start.
Until the Supreme Court PASPA ruling, the situation in the state has not changed. During this period, Pennsylvania also legalized casino games, and because it had more liberal regulations, started to offer more options. West Virginia, however, limited casino games to the race tracks in the state, and due to the limit of the total number of games that can be placed in the state, these casinos could offer a limited number of options. State gambling revenues started to decline: Most players now opted for gambling in the casinos of Pennsylvania. The two states were adjacent to each other and Pennsylvania made a strategic decision by placing most of its casinos near to the West Virginia border.

Supreme Court PASPA Times: West Virginia Tries Once More

The Supreme Court sports betting decision was quite useful for West Virginia. In March 2018, sports betting became legalized in order to compete with Pennsylvania. Fantasy sports betting was already legal, and sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel accepted members from the state. West Virginia quickly began to issue new laws, and as of Q3 2018, all types of gambling, except for online casinos, became legal in the province. The law, however, emphasized that West Virginia residents were free to use offshore gambling sites to play online casino games. In other words, in just a few months, the laws of gambling in West Virginia became quite liberal.

You can currently place a sports bet of your choice using mobile sports betting apps in West Virginia. Other than the race track casinos, there is still no operators in the state, but West Virginia made a wise decision by keeping the license fee extremely low: For just $ 100,000, each operator can get a license. Therefore, you can expect an increase in the number of licensed operators in the near future. Will this increase be enough for West Virginia to compete with Pennsylvania? Only time will tell.