West Virginia has become the newest partner in the Multistate Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), the interstate gaming compact created in 2014 that allows for the pooling of online-poker players onto a single multistate platform to increase player liquidity.
West Virginia becomes the fifth US state to join MSIGA since its inception, joining Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Michigan as MSIGA member states. Joining MSIGA, however, does not automatically equate to a state’s players having immediate access to online-poker sites offered in other states.
Michigan, for example, joined MSIGA in May of 2022 but has still not authorized any online site to merge its Michigan player pools with those the site offers in other states, a situation that currently affects both Caesars/World Series of Poker and PokerStars US.
West Virginia ‘pleased’ to join MSIGA
The West Virginia Lottery Commission, which oversees all casino-style gaming in the state, announced the Mountaineer State had joined MSIGA via a press release issued earlier today.
“I am pleased that our West Virginia iGaming providers will now have the opportunity to offer multi-state poker to our players,” said West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers. “This will greatly increase the potential pool of participants and thus allow our players to play for bigger winnings.”
The hidden component in West Virginia, however, is that at the present time, no online operator is licensed to offer online poker in Virginia; anyone playing online poker in that state is participating on an unregulated offshore site. The state’s smallish population of less than 1.8 million residents has hampered online operators’ desires to launch a regulated standalone site, and any operator wishing to do so would also have to partner with one of the state’s casinos, who would be the official licenseholders. West Virginia approved online poker in 2019, but to date there have been no takers.
Online operators must partner with live casinos
Joining MSIGA removes one of the existing roadblocks, though the casino partnerships and approval of online operators and software platforms remain. As the state’s press statement noted, “West Virginia iGaming Service Providers interested in offering multi-state poker will have to submit a letter of intent to the Lottery and gain necessary approvals from West Virginia and other relevant member states before going live.”
West Virginia’s live casinos are also limited in number. Excluding a handful of smallish roadside casinos, there are only five major casino properties in the state, and one of those, the Greenbrier Casino Club in White Sulpher Springs, is an exclusive club limited to its hotel guests. The Greenbrier, however, does have an existing partnership with BetMGM Poker.
The other four significant casino properties are more accurately termed as racinos and are scattered across the state. Those include the Penn-operated Hollywood Casino at Charles Town, Mardi Gras Casino and Resort at Kanawha, Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort at Chester, and Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack at Wheeling. Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island are both owned and operated by Delaware North, which owns 11 properties in eight US states and Australia, including Florida’s Daytona Beach and Orange City racing and card clubs.
According to WVadvantage.com, only Hollywood, Mardi Gras, and Wheeling Island currently offer live poker, and Hollywood, in far-eastern West Virginia, is the largest of the three with a 16-table room. The exclusive Greenbrier once had a tiny two-table room that was permanently shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that there might be as few as three potential casino partners for Caesars, PokerStars, or another online-poker operator to consider partnering with to bring the online game to the state. The casinos themselves could also choose another provider, but to date, none have shown that inclination.