West Virginia Real Money Online Gambling Guide
West Virginia has always been very fashionable when it comes to gambling, and while they don’t do much leading in the gambling department, they sure are eager to follow. West Virginia heard the tune of horse race betting when it first started to play in the early 1930’s, and continued their tradition of keeping up with gambling trends right up until today by adding online sports betting and even online casino betting to their repertoire.
West Virginia doesn’t usually come to mind when people consider the hippest gambling states in the country, but this state has indeed earned a place in this club. Let us show you how they have done it, everything they have now, and what else may be on their horizon.
History of Gambling in West Virginia
We often can get a sense of how a state feels about gambling by looking back upon its early history, and in particular, how it approached gambling when it first became a state. This isn’t always reliable though, as there are states that were pretty open to gambling when the state was first founded but have since developed more of a distaste for it, or states that started out opposed but have since opened up a lot more.
There is no state that has as much contrast with its early and later approach to gambling as West Virginia, who started out banning all forms of gambling and even most forms of gaming period. For many years, the only game you could play legally was chess, checkers, and backgammon, with all other games outlawed, whether for money or not. That’s as against gaming as you will ever see.
In spite of starting out with such a harsh stance on gaming, West Virginia was at the forefront of the pari-mutuel revival that hit several states in the country once the Great Depression hit in the 1930’s. West Virginia legalized betting on horse races in 1931, being one of the first states in the country to do so.
The next 50 years was a pretty quiet one on the gambling scene for both the country and the state, and it wasn’t until 1980 that West Virginia decided to add more authorized gambling, this time making charitable gambling legal. The 1980’s were also a time where many states that did not have a public lottery moved forward in approving this, and in 1984, the West Virginia lottery was born.
At this point, West Virginia had the standard pieces in place, horse racing, a lottery, and charitable gambling. Only two states had casino gambling, Nevada and New Jersey, but the 1980’s also saw the federal government give permission to federally regulated Indian tribes to open up casinos on their tribal lands, a move which was to dramatically affect the casino gambling scene and expand it to most states over the next few years.
West Virginia doesn’t have any federally regulated Indian tribes that were able to take advantage of this change in the gambling legal landscape, but this was also a time where some states were moving forward on their own to license casino gambling. West Virginia joined them in this effort by allowing their racetracks to offer slot machines and become racinos in 1994.
This effort became expanded in 2007 when the state approved full casino gambling in 2007, when table games were added. Allowing racinos to host casino table games is still pretty forward thinking as most still only have slots. There are now 4 racinos in the state, 2 offering horse races and the other two being greyhound tracks, plus one historical resort, the Greenbriar, that all offer a full range of casino gambling.
The next watershed moment was when the federal law prohibiting states from regulating sports betting was struck down. West Virginia was one of the first states that went ahead and passed a bill to legalize it once the opportunity presented itself, which also led to their allowing online sports betting as well.
A number of states have gone this far, with only a few having taken the next step in authorizing online casino gambling, and West Virginia is now among them, being the fifth state in the country to allow online gambling in all forms. Both real money online sports betting and real money online casino gaming are now up and running, with real money poker being approved and awaiting implementation.
West Virginia has indeed come a long way from its early days where even playing games for fun was against the law, to today, being one of the most progressive states in the country as far as gambling goes.
West Virginia Key Facts
- Abbreviation: WV
- State Motto: Montani semper liberi (Mountaineers Are Always Free)
- Capital City: Charleston
- Largest City: Charleston
- Population Estimate: 1.79 Million (38th)
- Website: wv.gov
West Virginia Gambling Laws
The goal of gambling law is to seek to include everything the state wishes to prohibit, and confine itself to that and not be overbroad. We should never, for instance, need to exclude things generally understood as normal business transactions, things like buying stocks or insurance, as being outside the scope of gambling law, but in some cases, the net has been cast so wide that it even captures these activities if not for their being specifically exempt.
How West Virginia drops the ball as they actually achieve the goal of making gaming itself illegal, all virtually all gaming, including kids playing hopscotch on the sidewalk. We aren’t talking about a century ago, as this remains on the books today. This is surely distinct from how these laws are applied, and although West Virginia’s is so convoluted that it requires a careful reading to determine its scope and meaning, this is exactly what it accomplishes, to make the playing of any game illegal in West Virginia unless granted a specific exemption.
While all the gaming that the state wishes to prohibit gets included here along with everything else, and the state can then choose what gaming they wish to arrest people for, with playing Monopoly likely not on the list, the goal of the law is to delineate which acts may expect prosecution and which can be performed without risk, without the need to guess, and just making all gaming illegal fails completely at achieving this.
At first glance, this law may seem to only apply to gaming devices, and it starts out by listing several prohibited devices such as “A.B.C. or E.O. tables or faro bank or keno table.” It goes on to include slot machines, “or any gaming table or device of any kind.” At this point we’re just dealing with gaming devices, but things get even broader when they include any game that uses devices to play any game, “whether the game, table, bank, machine, or device be played with cards, dice, or otherwise.”
It is therefore against the law to possess any device to be used in any game, including our Monopoly boards, or to promote gaming using any device, inviting our friends and family to come over and play Monopoly. It is also against the law to play at any game, where both the owner of the Monopoly game and the players could all be charged under West Virginia law.
At this point, whether the game is played for money, match sticks, or just for fun without even keeping score is of no consequence, with the only exemptions being the playing of bowls, chess, draughts, backgammon, or a licensed game” shall be guilty of a crime.
Licensed game here presumably means games that the state issues a license for, for instance gambling at a state licensed casino. They also prohibit betting “on sides of those who play at any game,” which is the first mention of betting and would make all sports betting or similar wagering against the law as well.
In a separate section, betting while playing games where items of value get exchanged is also against the law, which may not make sense at first glance but provides a separate section to prosecute what we would consider to be a more serious crime. The penalties for gambling at games involve a higher fine, of up to $300, versus the up to $100 for both possessing a device used for gaming and being found to be playing a game.
States often fail to include all of the types of gambling that they wish to prohibit under the law, often missing out on sports betting entirely, but West Virginia will never be accused of that, outlawing all games besides bowls, chess, backgammon, and draughts, which is a very old fashioned name for the game of checkers, what it was called at the time this law was last updated.
The fact that playing chess or checkers needs a specific exemption makes it clear that this law goes after games in general and not just gambling games, as none of these games are normally wagered on, other than for matchsticks perhaps. You aren’t allowed to bet money on these or games though, so the exception only goes as far as allowing you to play these certain games for fun and not break the law.
Games that do not involve the use of any devices at all, such as rock paper scissors, could also be seen as exempt, but any game that uses any implement will be trapped by this. Given how old this law is, made very clear by their using 19th century games as examples, it may have been the intention at one time in this state to prohibit the playing of games this broadly, but that’s surely not the case today.
One benefit of a law this overbroad is that this does successfully clear the gaming landscape so that we can then be told what we are allowed to do, at least as far as real money gambling games go. West Virginians still need to take a leap of faith when it comes to playing games for fun, and although they can still do so with a very high level of confidence as the law isn’t enforced this way, but the fact that it still could is still concerning from a legal perspective as states should not keep old laws on the books to rot like this.
We might think that a state that has so few exceptions to even being allowed to play games for fun and bans all wagering on games unless permitted by law would be very conservative when it comes to what they would allow, but West Virginia is actually one of the most permissive states in the country when it comes to gambling, they just don’t get around to updating their gambling laws very often, or ever.
Land-Based Gambling in West Virginia
West Virginia may only have 5 casinos in the entire state, with only one being a true casino and the other 4 being horse and dog tracks that have added casino gaming, but the state has evolved into one of the most gambling friendly states in the country. It doesn’t get more friendly than allowing it all in fact.
Legal gambling started with pari-mutuel wagering being legalized, and West Virginia got in on this on the ground floor, at a time where a few other states were considering legalizing this form of gambling, and West Virginia was one of the states that spearheaded this effort. They weren’t the first state to permit it, but they were among the very first.
After all these years, these tracks are still thriving, during a time where pari-mutuel racing has gone out of style to a large degree, no longer being the only thing that you could wager on. Competition from casino gaming has caused many a track to close, but in West Virginia, the state simply gave the casino gambling to the tracks, which have allowed them to continue to thrive in this new and more permissive gambling landscape of today.
The Wheeling Island Hotel Casino and Racetrack have been offering racing since 1866, starting out with horses and then eventually converting to dog racing, with the hotel and casino being more recent additions. It now offers a full range of gaming, including dog racing, off-track betting on both dogs and horses, slot machines, poker, casino table games, and sports betting. Other amenities include a hotel, several restaurants, and live events utilizing a tropical resort theme.
The Mardi Gras Casino and Resort also offers live greyhound racing, and was recently bought by the same company that owns Wheeling Island, who now own both dog racinos in the state. The Mardi Gras also rolls out a full slate of gambling, including live and off-track pari-mutuel wagering, slots, casino table games, poker, and sports betting.
Charles Town Races opened soon after betting on horses became legal in the state, and have been offering them since 1933. It is now called the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. It is now more casino than race track, with over 3,000 slot machines, casino table games, poker, and sports betting to go along with the horse race betting that it has offered all these years.
The Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack, and Resort rounds out West Virginia’s 4 racinos. It was built in 1951 by the founder of Charles Town Racing in an effort to expand horse racing in the state. Adding a resort and a casino has allowed them to continue to do well to this day, with the usual slots, casino table games, poker, and sports betting that the state’s other racinos now offer.
Rounding out the 5 is the iconic Greenbriar, which opened in 1913 as a 250 room resort in order to capitalize on the area’s sulphur water, which people have been coming for since the 18th century to enjoy its purported medicinal benefits.
Its luster waned a little over the years, although allowing the resort to add a casino in 2009 has revived it back to five star status. There is much to do at Greenbriar, and even more now that they have a full-service casino to go along with their many other activities, including a golf course with golf legend Tom Watson as the head pro.
- List of Land Based Casinos in West Virginia
Casino Address Phone Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races 750 Hollywood Dr, Charles Town, WV 25414 800-795-7001 Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort 1420 Mountaineer Cir, New Cumberland, WV 26047 800-804-0468 Mardi Gras Casino & Resort 1 Greyhound Dr, Cross Lanes, WV 25313 304-776-1000 The Greenbrier 101 W Main St, White Sulphur Springs, WV 24986 844-837-2466 Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack 1 S Stone St, Wheeling, WV 26003 304-232-5050 Big Bucks Bingo 1489 Milford St, Clarksburg, WV 26301 800-338-6058
West Virginia Online Casinos & Slots Gambling
While only having 5 casinos in the entire state isn’t that much to brag about, you don’t have to travel to one of these casinos to gamble legally in this state. West Virginia didn’t just jump on the sports betting bandwagon once the potential became available in 2018, they approved both land-based and online sports betting, and the online part of this is the bigger of the two as it reaches into every house in the state.
There are several states that have gone the extra step to authorize online sports betting, which for some reason is preferred by a lot of states over real money casino and poker, and we are left to wonder when these states will agree to completely open up online gambling. West Virginia is not one of these states, as all three forms have been approved now.
West Virginians can now both bet on sports online and play their favorite casino games all they like at online sites run by the state’s land-based casinos. It’s not that a state not allowing real money online gambling serves to stop anyone who wishes to gamble at offshore sites, but these sites are onshore, with the full approval of the government and with a full range of deposit and withdrawal options, just like the old days before the UIGEA.
While real money online poker has been approved as well, its rollout is more problematic. Running an online poker site requires a lot more active players than a state the size of West Virginia could ever provide, and even larger states like New Jersey barely was able to put together a size big enough to make a go of it.
West Virginia will require an arrangement similar to what Delaware, another small state that approved online poker, had to do. Delaware teamed up with Nevada to allow their players to gain access to the bigger player pool they needed to be viable, and West Virginia will need to do something similar.
In the meantime, Delaware poker players can still access poker rooms with larger player bases by playing at offshore sites, sites that cater to most of the world rather than just the small population of Delaware. You won’t be able to use your credit cards or internet wallets, but players have never had any real trouble moving money in and out of these sites, and the coming of Bitcoin has made this a whole lot easier these days.
Future of Gambling in West Virginia
Given the strategy of West Virginia to confine its land-based casinos to horse and dog tracks and the Greenbriar, we don’t have to look any further to come to the conclusion that such an arrangement would not be all that efficient and leave the land-based gambling market underserved.
What happens when you segregate casino license access like this is that the incumbents often get preferential treatment. If someone wants to build a new casino and compete against those already in the game, they are going to do their best to prevent such a thing, and it could be a while before the land-based casino scene opens up like the online one just has, where licenses can be more readily obtained.
West Virginia is already taking baby steps as we have seen a movement to allow for the state’s 5 existing casinos to offer off-site satellite casinos. This does at least remove their opposition to more expansion and it then just becomes a matter of the state itself wishing to tolerate more gambling, and this is the next logical step in the process.
West Virginia has come a long way in the online gambling department, but just getting a yes doesn’t necessarily mean that a form of online gambling is viable. The challenge with online poker in the state isn’t even a matter of economic viability, it’s getting the project off the ground in the first place.
You need a lot of full tables to make a poker site work, and if you go there and see one or two persons sitting at a table that you want to play at, at your chosen game type and stakes, you will just leave, as will those already there waiting for a game. There are a lot of different game types and stakes and West Virginia is way too small to ever make this work by confining the sites to West Virginians.
For the time being, there is no good plan in place to get real online poker off the ground in West Virginia, so like in other states that do not have online poker yet, they have no choice but to confine their play to one of several offshore real money online poker sites that accept players from West Virginia.
While West Virginians are in pretty good hands with legal online sports betting and legal online casino gambling, they still need a little help if they want to play online poker at reputable sites. The best approach is to seek advice from experts on offshore gambling such as ourselves, where those who can benefit from our advice can be confident that they are playing at the best sites available as they await online poker to be rolled out in West Virginia.
West Virginia Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
- What is it against the law to play in West Virginia?
The ultimate goal of gambling law is to prohibit all forms of gambling unless specifically authorized by law, and West Virginia not only accomplishes this but they also make it against the law to play any game even for fun unless authorized by law. Checkers, chess, backgammon, and lawn bowling are the only games that state law allow to be played. You can’t bet on these things though, but West Virginia does allow people to bet on just about everything else.
- Do West Virginians need to worry about playing games for fun?
No one gets arrested in West Virginia for playing games for fun, and states generally do not aim the long arm of the law against this sort of activity, but West Virginia certainly could if they wanted to. It’s hard to imagine their allowing backgammon to be played legally but not other board games. It may have been the case back when the law was written that they included the popular games of the day and didn’t realize others would be prohibited as they came along by this law.
- When did gambling first come to West Virginia?
To go along with their exclusive list of games that could be played legally, West Virginia added its first legal gambling in 1931 by allowing people to bet on horse and greyhound races. This stood as the only legal gambling in the state for half a century, and the state has had continuous pari-mutuel betting ever since. The state has 2 horse racing tracks and 2 greyhound tracks, with betting on the dogs being the more popular of the two.
- How did West Virginia end up with casinos?
The early 1990’s was a time when casino gambling really started to take off around the country, but the reason behind this wasn’t that so many states finally changed their view towards legal casino gambling, it was because federally regulated Indian tribes across the country got the right to offer it in opposition to the wishes of the states. West Virginia does not have any of these tribes, but simply chose to allow their racetracks to offer it.
- What can you gamble at these days at West Virginia’s racinos?
West Virginia’s 4 race tracks, 2 which offer horse racing and the other two which offer greyhound racing, allows patrons to not only bet on their live racing but on other races held elsewhere. They also offer slot machine gambling, popular casino table games, live poker, as well as their most recent addition, betting on your favorite sporting contests.
- Does West Virginia have any non-racetrack casinos?
West Virginia has a fifth casino, the Greenbriar Casino Club, at the historical Greenbriar. The Greenbriar is a genuine resort that got a casino added on almost a century after it opened, and is an experience in itself aside from its casino. Both the gaming and the resort is top notch, and in spite of the modest size of this casino, it was rated in the top 20 casinos in the country by Trip Advisor.
- What are the prospects of West Virginia getting more land-based casinos?
In a free gambling market, licenses are granted based upon merit, where with closed markets they tend to be granted based upon favoritism. Considering that West Virginia’s casino licenses have been handed out to each of the state’s 4 racetracks and their major resort, this arrangement is definitely a closed one thus far. None of them want competition and the status quo will remain until the state can turn away from these special interests enough.
- Does West Virginia have legal online gambling yet?
West Virginia was one of the first states to add online sports betting once the Supreme Court struck down the federal law in 2018 that was keeping them from permitting this. They just didn’t stop there though as they ended up legalizing online casinos as well, being only the fifth state in the country to do so. Both real money online sports betting and real money online casino gambling are up and running now, being offered by the state’s casinos.
- Does West Virginia have real money online poker yet?
Even though real money online poker has been approved by the state of West Virginia in addition to their permitting online casino and sports betting, West Virginians are still waiting for a home grown poker site to emerge. Neither casino games nor sports betting involve other players, although with real money poker, there has to be enough of them to make a poker site work. West Virginia will likely need to team up with another state like Delaware had to.
- Do West Virginians need to wait to play real money online poker?
Since West Virginia really doesn’t have enough players by itself to make a go of a real money online poker site, players will have to wait for a solution before a state regulated online poker site can be rolled out. However, players from West Virginia have been gambling at offshore online poker sites for many years now, and continue to. We can show you the best places to play at for West Virginians.