West Virginia Poker Laws

A Guide to Poker in the State of West Virginia

West Virginia Gambling Laws

In this guide to poker in West Virginia, first up is a quick run through of the gambling environment. Next the laws relating to poker is looked at before moving on to see where you can play live. Finally West Virginia’s stance on online poker is covered.

A Brief Overview of Gambling in West Virginia

Like many States West Virginia had a ban on gambling at the end of the 1800s and gradually relaxed their stance as the 20th century progressed. Initially pari-mutuel horse racing betting was legalized in 1931 although it was not until the 1980s when this was joined by lotteries.

In the 1990s the relaxation accelerated with the legalization of casino games. Licenses were granted to the 4 main race tracks to expand and become ‘racinos’, hosting slots and spreading table games including poker. Another establishment was also approved, although this casino, the Greenbrier is predominantly a private vacation resort.

Is Poker Legal in West Virginia?

Gambling is defined in West Virginia’s Statutes Chapter 61. 10-12

“If any person at any place, public or private, bet or wage money or other thing of value on any game of chance, or shall knowingly furnish any money or other thing of value to any other person to bet or wage on any such game….”

The law focuses on betting and while you could argue that poker is a game of skill, it is widely accepted that it is covered by this legislation. With legal poker now permitted at the race-tracks the need to declassify it as gambling has lessened, despite home games still officially classed as illegal.

The penalty if you are caught in illegal games could be a fine up to $300, a year’s probation.

Where West Virginia’s Poker Players Can Compete Live?

The four major racetrack casinos provide large poker rooms of up to 50 tables. These are the Hollywood Casino, Mardi-Gras, Mountaineer Casino and Wheeling Island. These host popular regular tournaments which are scheduled over the week in addition to special events and local poker series. Cash games run 24/7 and you can find Omaha and Stud alongside the regular Holdem games.

Home games are technically illegal in West Virginia with no provision in the laws for social games. Providing these are kept as small games between friends and do not operate as businesses, the authorities generally are not worried about them, preferring to concentrate on the bigger underground games. Like home games charity poker has no exceptions in place, so are covered illegal gambling laws and do not run.

Bar poker leagues do run as these are free to enter. These are more social events than serious poker games although small prizes are offered by the sponsors.

How Online Poker Stands in West Virginia

As there have been no amendments to the Statutes to include online poker, it is assumed existing laws cover the activity, making it illegal. The good news is this has not been enforced and no homes have been raided and no arrests made for playing poker online.

For a long time now it has been thought that West Virginia will regulate online poker within its borders, possibly even partnering with Delaware. If this was to happen it seems logical that the player pool would also be shared with Nevada, who currently has a compact with Delaware. At present there are no developments in this area.

While online players await regulation they can still enjoy games on the offshore sites which serve US players. These businesses operate legally, mainly out of the Caribbean islands and believe they have the right to accept American players because of international free-trade laws. Currently there is nothing enforced which prevents US citizens playing on these sites, although there may be blocks on different financial transactions.

In Summary – West Virginia Poker

West Virginia provides players with top class poker games at 4 large casinos located at the state’s racetracks. Games here are plentiful and run around the clock. While home games are not legal in West Virginia, there are no recent cases of small friendly games getting busted.

There are hopes that this State will see regulated poker sooner rather than later, with possible links to Delaware and Nevada player pools. In the meantime players can still access the offshore sites.