The West Virginia Lottery has tempered its expectations for launching online poker early in 2024, though it still anticipates a launch later in the year. Executive Director John Myers shared this update with PlayWV, reflecting a cautious but hopeful outlook.
West Virginia, which legalized online poker along with online casinos in 2019, has yet to see operators step forward to offer online poker, likely due to its relatively small population which might not sustain a thriving online poker environment. The state’s inclusion in the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) in November was a move to mitigate this by pooling players across states, yet the expected quick operator sign-on has been delayed.
Myers indicated that discussions with potential operators revealed they had other priorities delaying their launch timelines, hinting at a possible introduction of online poker to the state later in the year.
Despite a modest population of 1.7 million and online poker’s low contribution to iGaming revenue (just over 1%), West Virginia’s online poker market is projected to be modest. The delay is attributed to operators focusing on more lucrative online casino operations in other states.
Potential Entrants into West Virginia’s Online Poker Market
Specific operators’ plans remain confidential, but speculation points to a few key players, each facing their own set of challenges.
- PokerStars stands out for prioritizing poker, contributing significantly to its revenue in states like Pennsylvania. However, its absence in West Virginia means entering the market would require navigating licensing, partnerships, and setup, potentially delaying its debut.
- BetMGM Poker, while a leader in online casino revenue, has a smaller online poker presence. Its strategy of launching casinos first could mean a delayed poker offering in West Virginia, especially as it weighs the timing against establishing a multi-state network.
- WSOP.com benefits from a strong brand and a network that includes Nevada but faces software compatibility challenges across states. Its potential reevaluation of its relationship with software provider 888 Holdings further complicates a West Virginia launch.
- Run It Once Poker represents an interesting possibility with Rush Street Interactive’s acquisition of Phil Galfond’s platform. As a new entrant, it could leverage West Virginia and Delaware (where Rush Street recently became the technology partner for the state lottery’s iGaming) to build a competitive but small network.
These developments suggest a complex landscape for online poker’s introduction to West Virginia, with various operators weighing strategic considerations against the backdrop of the state’s market size and regulatory environment.
The Strategic Wait for West Virginia’s Online Poker Scene
The delayed launch of online poker in West Virginia is a strategic pause rather than a setback. For players eagerly awaiting the opportunity to place their bets online, this delay allows potential operators to refine their offerings and ensure a robust platform that meets the unique needs of the Mountain State’s gaming community. This anticipation builds a foundation for a more competitive and engaging online poker environment when it finally arrives.
Potential Benefits of Multi-State Poker for West Virginia
West Virginia’s entry into the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) could revolutionize its online poker landscape. This move not only promises to enhance player pools but also increases the variety and frequency of games available to players. As West Virginia navigates the complexities of launching online poker, the potential for shared liquidity with other states stands as a beacon of growth, promising a richer, more dynamic poker experience for enthusiasts within the state.