Players from all over the US enjoy an evening out spent with Lady Luck at the casinos, the poker room, or maybe even a sports bar. An exciting game of Texas Hold ‘Em or even a well-placed bet on the Mountaineers to win the game outright can turn an evening around for the better. Those living in West Virginia are no strangers to adding a little spice to life with cash winnings and we have provided this page for all those in the Mountain State who are seeking to brush up on local gambling laws before going out to place a bet. We will outline below both local and federal laws for what one can and cannot do when it comes to the major forms of gambling.
While federal laws are all encompassing and set clear rules for what businesses and citizens may do alike, they leave much room for each state to develop their own unique gambling legislations. The state of West Virginia is one such state that has done so but largely remains the same as the national policies already in place. We will cover some of the more notable aspects of West Virginia State gambling laws below.
WV SB 415 - This first West Virginia sports betting bill to ever be passed into law, the legislation effectively legalized sports gambling in the state. The law authorizes five state-licensed gaming facilities to accept wagers on professional and collegiate sporting events. There is also language permitting these venues to operate online sportsbooks with a vendor of their choosing. The West Virginia Lottery Commission has rule-making authority over sports wagering activities.
Section 8-12-5 - The state code does not directly define gambling however, it does refer to it as a bad thing that may bring prosecution. This seems intimidating until reading further through the language to realize that “keeping” gambling places or devices are the main things legislated against. Just as is the case with federal law, the business of gambling or facilitating bets for profit other than personal winnings will garner steep fines and jail time.
Section 61-10-5 - Although the dated West Virginia constitution touches on the subject of gambling, it’s most important to focus on the spirit of the law that tell us that gambling is not a crime. How does one go about interpreting the spirit of the law? We feel the fact that no resident has ever been prosecuted for gambling in the privacy of their own home, whether online or amongst friends in a game where the host did not collect a profit speaks for itself. The intent of this law is to discourage attendance at illicit games, not to scare West Virginia players out of their hobby.
Section 61-10-9 - With such tight regulations on being able to gamble at all outside of a state licensed facility, it is interesting to note that cheating is unlawful in any instance of gambling or gaming. This will score an offender a misdemeanor that is punishable up to a year in jail and a fine that is five times the value of whatever was illicitly won.
Section 61-10-2 - It is unlawful in the State of West Virginia to play on any sort of gaming table both in public while betting, however, licensed games and chess are oddly exempt. The penalty for this is once again a misdemeanor that could mean a small fine and/or jail time. This is why most West Virginia residents play their “table” games at legal online casinos that accept West Virginia players, where they run no risk of prosecution.
In West Virginia it is unlawful to act as a guard or doorkeeper to any gambling activity.
The Mountain State once again keeps the read interesting in its state legislation by specifically targeting any person who might act as a guard to a poker game or gatekeeper to an underground casino. The big guy in the tux behind that little sliding window in every cool movie you ever saw, is breaking West Virginian law. The penalty for being an underground casino watchdog is a misdemeanor which could spell up to a year in jail and/or a fine up to one thousand dollars.
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It’s important to understand that all of these laws leave the average citizen free to wager upon a slot machine, poker game or sporting event so long as they find a legal venue to do so. The internet provides many of these legal venues, as well as land-based casinos and racetracks.
Wire Act – The Federal Wire Act was the first major piece of gambling legislation in the United States that made it unlawful to engage in the business of gambling. While the simple act of placing a bet is still legal, facilitating wagers is a major offense anywhere in the country unless otherwise licensed to do so. The Wire Act targets organized crime and illicit gambling schemes while leaving average citizens alone to wager as they wish.
PASPA – The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 2018, therefore it is now obsolete. This act made the facilitation of sports bets unlawful throughout the country while leaving a handful of locations - such as Las Vegas - exempt. This is no longer the case as each state can individually determine whether or not to legalize sports gambling.
UIGEA – The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) soon followed PASPA and again kept to the federal policy of going after gambling businesses, this time the internet banking transactions of such businesses. The UIGEA does nothing to hinder the average citizen from gambling over the internet, however, it prohibits any online entity from knowingly accepting or issuing payments online if not permitted by law. Being that just about every form of gambling is permitted in WV, residents have nothing to worry about. Also, the UIGEA has no power over offshore online sites.
The legal gambling age in West Virginia varies depending on the medium one is wagering within. For the state lottery and pari-mutuel betting facilities, the age restriction is set at 18 years of age or older while land based casinos are restricted to those aged 21 years of age or older. For all those in the Mountain State wishing to wager online at a legal sports betting site that accepts West Virginia residents, you will need to be at least 21 years old.
The state provides plenty of options for safe and legal online gambling in West Virginia. West Virginia has laws written that specifically legalize online and mobile wagering provided by state-licensed operators. There are currently no online casino laws that are for or against the activity. As such, residents are not breaking laws by visiting offshore gambling sites that take WV players. As long as you are of legal age, you will have no problems with online gambling in West Virginia.