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West Virginia Officially Becomes 5th State to Legalize Online Poker

West Virginia

The legalization of online poker across the USA has been painfully slow but West Virginia has officially joined the party this week.

West Virginia will follow in the footsteps of New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Delaware as the only states to offer fully licensed and regulated online poker in the USA.

A pro-online gaming bill, which had already passed through the state House and Senate, was not vetoed or signed by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice over the weekend, which resulted in it becoming law. The law will officially go into effect June 7, 2019.

With a population of 1.8 million, West Virginia becomes the second-smallest market for online poker in the USA but it’s nonetheless a big win for American poker players eager to see more states join the action.

West Virginia may be a relatively small market but — at least for online poker — there is some potential for the state to enter into an agreement with other states to share players.

Future of Poker in West Virginia Still Murky

Online gaming may officially be legal in West Virginia but there is no timetable for when the WV-facing online poker sites will launch.

There are five casinos that can apply for online poker licenses. They are:

  • Mountaineer Casino and Racetrack
  • The Casino Club at The Greenbrier
  • Wheeling Island Hotel
  • Hollywood Casino
  • Mardi Gras Casino

Initially a license from the West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association will cost $250,000. A $100,000 renewal will be charged every five years.

Online poker generally requires a large number of players to be viable so it remains to be seen if any of the casinos make a large push into the market.

Interestingly the Mountaineer Casino and Racetrack is owned by the El Dorado Group, which has a partnership with online poker industry giant PokerStars.

There is at least some potential for Mountaineer Casino to gain a license and launch an online poker site that would utilize PokerStars software.

Jason Koon Sits Atop West Virginia Leaderboard

There are a number of poker professionals who have come out of West Virginia but high roller Jason Koon is by far the most successful.

Koon has made big scores playing super high stakes tournaments around the world from Las Vegas to Macau. The Weston, West Virginia native has accumulated over $27.9 million since his first official live tournament in 2008.

Koon perfected his poker game playing online as JAKoon1985 and NovaSky. After crushing the online game, he transitioned to live poker where he eventually started displaying the same dominance.

In the last few years, Koon has been particularly successful and recorded his biggest win ever in the Triton Poker Short Deck HK$1 million buy-in in Montenegro in 2018. He took down a staggering $3.5 million in his victory.

Koon would be an amazing sponsorship opportunity for the first West Virginia online poker sites but he’s made so much money playing high-stakes poker it’s unknown if he’d even be interested in such a deal.

Michigan Eyes Online Gaming in 2019

West Virginia may not be the only U.S. state that passes online gaming legislation in 2019.

There’s a very good chance that Michigan will be the next state to officially license and regulate online poker. The state almost passed online gaming legislation in late 2018 when the Michigan General Assembly gave the green light to a gaming bill.

Unfortunately for online poker fans, former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder vetoed the bill in a surprise move that slammed the brakes on potential online poker expansion.

Several months later and it appears that online gaming is once again on the table in the Great Lakes State. Snyder is gone and the assembly has already introduced a new bill that would legalize online gaming. New Governor Gretchen Whitmer has stated in the past that she supports legal sports betting.

With a population of nearly 10 million, Michigan would be a market that could potentially sustain an online market built solely on players based in the state.

If Michigan comes on board, that would bring the overall number of states where online poker is legal to seven. Other states may come aboard quickly once they see the revenue generated from online gaming. In addition New York remains a potentially game-breaking market that could legalize online poker in the next year or two.