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On Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, West Virginia became the fifth state to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). This is a compact that allows participating states to pool their regulated online poker traffic across state lines and allow their populations to play against each other. West Virginia thus joins Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, and Michigan: the previously existing members of the MSIGA.
News Announced in Press Release
The accession of West Virginia to the MSIGA was revealed in a joint press release from the West Virginia Lottery and the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association. Gaming operators in The Mountain State who intend to take advantage of cross-border poker traffic pooling under the agreement must submit a letter to that effect to the W.V. lottery and obtain approval from West Virginia and the other participating states.
West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers stated:
I am pleased that our West Virginia iGaming providers will now have the opportunity to offer multi-state poker to our players…This will greatly increase the potential pool of participants and thus allow our players to play for bigger winnings.
Potential Multi-State West Virginia Online Poker Sites
The comments by John Myers make it seem like there are W.V. licensed internet poker sites ready to join their player traffic with other states. However, there are in fact exactly zero West Virginia-regulated online poker rooms.
When West Virginia legalized online gaming in 2019, the permitted forms of wagering included online poker, casino games, and sports betting (authorized through separate legislation). State-licensed online sportsbooks and casino operators soon appeared, but no company has yet launched or even announced the intention to host online poker. This is no doubt a reflection of the small population of West Virginia (1.8 million), which makes a ring-fenced online poker economy appear unviable to prospective online poker sites.
Entrants Waiting in the Wings?
Despite the fact that there aren’t any West Virginia-regulated online poker rooms active today, state lottery Assistant Director Randy Burnside has indicated that no fewer than two iGaming providers have expressed interest in multi-state poker.
There are close to a dozen online wagering providers that are already active in West Virginia. However, most of them have no online poker product available.
The most likely candidates to open a WV regulated online poker site are BetMGM, Caesars, and PokerStars. Both BetMGM and Caesars are already active in the online sportsbook and casino markets in the state with Caesars teaming up with Mountaineer Casino in New Cumberland and BetMGM acting in concert with The Greenbrier in White Sulfur Springs. PokerStars is not present in West Virginia as such, but the FanDuel brand, which runs an internet sportsbook and casino in conjunction with Mountaineer Casino, is owned by the same Flutter corporation that also owns The Stars Group.
BetMGM has an internet poker presence in New Jersey and Michigan and is associated with the Borgata and partypoker brands. Caesars has deployed its WSOP.com poker solution to New Jersey, Michigan, and Nevada with tech partner 888 also active in poker in New Jersey and Delaware. PokerStars meanwhile has launched online poker rooms in New Jersey and Michigan.
All of these entities could be looking to add potential West Virginia poker liquidity to their countrywide player pools. Its worth noting, though, that only WSOP/888 and PokerStars actually have any experience managing multi-jurisdictional poker. BetMGM’s poker platforms in Michigan and New Jersey have separate player pools, which do not commingle.
A dark horse candidate for entry into interstate West Virginia online poker is Rush Street Interactive (RSI). Its subsidiary BetRivers currently operates WV online sportsbook and casino sites in partnership with Mountaineer Casino.
BetRivers has not yet released any internet poker product, but it lists poker as “Coming Soon” on the product page of its website, and it owns the rights to Phil Galfond’s now-shuttered RunItOnce poker room. Moreover, Rush Street has been chosen as Delaware’s vendor for online gaming products, displacing 888, the previous vendor. Among the forms of wagering covered by the Delaware contract is online poker.
The Path Forward
As we mentioned before, any firm that wishes to set up interstate online poker in West Virginia must apply to the Lottery and obtain approval, including approval from the other participating states. Assistant Lottery Director Randy Burnside said that he hopes this type of gaming starts in the first quarter of 2024.
However, we believe that this timeline is hopelessly optimistic. Given that there aren’t any regulated WV internet poker rooms currently active, any company that hopes to debut cross-border poker would first have to get their software ready for launch, a process that could take months. Then they would have to go through the approval process for multi-jurisdictional play, which could potentially take a few more months.
A more realistic timeframe for the appearance of multistate internet poker in West Virginia is the middle of next year. Whenever it does come to fruition, it will see West Virginia’s 1.8 million residents have the ability to play online poker against the combined population in the other compacting states of 23+ million. Clearly, this will create a more sustainable online poker scene in the state than if its 1.8 million people were obliged to play only against each other.
History of MSIGA Growth
The Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement first came into being in 2014 as a result of negotiations between Nevada and Delaware. Though it was signed in 2014, it really only started to become effective in March 2015 when 888 combined its state-regulated Delaware poker traffic with that of its Nevada WSOP.com poker room.
The combined player pools remained small until New Jersey signed the compact in October 2017 and started contributing its player traffic in May 2018. This had an immediate and long-term impact on regulated online poker traffic in the United States.
In October 2017, Pennsylvania legalized online poker as did West Virginia in March 2019 and Michigan in December 2019. The race was on to see which would see licensed poker launch online first, and industry observers were also curious to see if any of them would join the MSIGA.
In April 2022, Michigan was announced as the fourth member of the MSIGA. However, it did not immediately join its players to the multi-state pool.
West Virgina Lottery Deputy Director for Security David Bradley remarked in October 2022 that, “If one of our operators came to us and said they wanted to offer multi-state poker, I’m sure we [would consider it]. Once Michigan joins, I’m sure there will be a lot of interest.”
Without any pressing need to join the compact, it seemed West Virginia was taking a wait-and-see approach. The first Michigan online cardroom to combine its players across state lines was PokerStars, which did so in January 2023.
Throughout this entire time, there has been little word on the possibility of Pennsylvania joining the compact although provisions in PA law definitely authorize the Gaming Control Board to enter into these kinds of arrangements. Now that West Virginia has joined, the pressure is on for Pennsylvania to do likewise or risk becoming a laggard in the regulated internet gaming industry.
Play West Virginia Online Poker Now!
Fortunately for West Virginians – though perhaps not for greedy politicians in Charleston – there are already a few online poker sites that accept players from the state. These are offshore poker providers whose services are legal for you to participate in. By signing up with one of these rooms today, you don’t have to wait for the as yet nonexistent state-licensed internet poker parlors to appear.