Legal West Virginia Poker & Gambling Laws

West Virginia Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in West Virginia?

West Virginia gambling laws are just a little different from the gaming statutes in any of US state. West Virginians delegate authority to regulate gambling interests in their state to two agencies, but one of them is given more authority than in any other state. The two regulatory bodies are the West Virginia Racing Commission and the West Virginia Lottery Commission. I'll discuss each of these in its turn.

Legal Poker Games in West Virginia

What's the legal landscape like for poker in West Virginia? Poker players do have some legal options, but West Virginia's law isn't quite as friendly to poker players as, say, Washington's.

A quick look at West Virginia's definition of gambling makes it clear that poker - while not specifically mentioned - is definitely covered. In fact, Section 61-10-4 makes betting or just playing nearly all games a form of gambling activity.

So our concern is with the types of gambling West Virginia permits. The way West Virginia state law is written, all forms of gambling are first declared illegal as a default position. Then the law continues on to issue various exceptions to the broad prohibition.

The exception of most interest to poker players: Regulated gambling in the form of commercial casinos and racetracks. Live poker rooms come in a variety of sizes and locations in West Virginia, with Wheeling Island Casino, the Mountaineer Casino and Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races making up the top of the list by number of available table and frequency of games.

As for other exceptions - well, there's not much meat on that bone. And by "not much," we mean none. You can't look to a social gambling or private gambling exception in West Virginia - none exists, making your home game a potentially illegal (albeit low-risk) enterprise. And charitable gambling (spelled out in Section 47-20-1) is limited solely to bingo. So until someone comes up with a form of bingo a bit closer to poker, you're basically limited to the live rooms if you're looking for a clearly legal way to play real-money poker in West Virginia.

Brick and Mortar Casinos

The Casino Club at Greenbriar is the only classic casino found in West Virgina. This casino setting offers craps, roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and 3 card poker. Players also can enjoy one of 320 video lottery terminals. The Prime 44 West Steakhouse also is found on the grounds.

West Virginia Racing Commission

West Virginia's Racing Commission oversees four different racinos in the Mountaineer State: The Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Cross Lanes, the Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center in Wheeling, the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, and the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack, and Resort in Chester, West virginia.

Does West Virginia Have Legal Horse Betting?

Two of these racing venues are racinos. A "racino" is a racetrack which takes parimutuel betting on the outcome of the races, but also has some other form of gambling. This form of gambling is usually gaming machines, whether these are slot machines and video poker machines or whether they involve video lottery terminals, video keno, or video bingo. Many race tracks also offer off-track betting, which allows someone to gamble on the outcome of races elsewhere in the world. These races are usually simulcast at the race track for the entertainment of the gamblers. As I mentioned earlier, of the four racinos in West Virginia, two involve horse racing. These are the Hollywood Casino and the Mountaineer Casino.

Hollywood Casino in Charles Town is the biggest gambling facility in the state. It has 4,500 gaming machines (video lottery terminals) and 112 table and poker games (with 27 poker tables). Hollywood Racino has a steakhouse, an Asian restaurant, 3 American style eateries, a buffet, and an international food court.

Many gambling opportunities can be found at the Mountaineer Casino and Resort, too. Gamblers can play on 2,132 video lottery terminals and the "Big Wheel", if you want to play gambling machines. If you prefer table and poker games, visitors have their selection of blackjack, craps, roulette, and poker. Twenty-four poker tables are active. Places to eat include a steak house, a lounge, two American sit-down restaurants, a buffet, a deli, and a coffee house.

Horse betting on thoroughbred, quarterhorse, or harness races isn’t the only form of racing allowed in many states. Certain states also have dog racing or greyhound races.

Are Dog Racinos Legal Gambling in West Virginia?

The dog tracks in West Virginia are the Mardi Gras Casino and the Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center. Wheeling Island is absolutely huge. The center offers 2,400 gaming machines, including video lottery, video blackjack, video keno, video poker, and video slots. Wheeling Island also offers 73 table games, including blackjack, roulette, craps, 3 card poker, Caribbean Stud poker, Pai Gow poker, Let It Ride, and Texas Hold'em poker (20 tables). You'll also find three sit-down restaurants, a buffet, a food court, and a coffee house. Finally, gamblers will find a 600 seat bingo hall.

Mardi Gras Casinos isn't as large as Wheeling Island, but it's still got a lot of gaming options. Players can enjoy 1,200 video lottery terminals and 24 poker tables. Bingo is also available, along with the race book. Also on the premises are 2 restaurants, 2 delis, and a cafe.

Learn About Other State Laws

Table Games Repeal by Republicans

Republicans in the West Virginia State Senate have called for a "table games repeal" referendum to be placed on the ballet in November 2012. If this law passed, all table games in the state of West Virginia would have to shut down. The Mardi Gras Casino has already stated it would have to close its doors if such a law were passed--with the loss of 850 jobs. Since Pennsylvania passed pro-gambling laws early in 2004 and began opening up racinos, the nearby West Virginia racinos have been hurt by the fact Pennsylvanians are staying home to gamble.

If the state Republicans in West Virginia have their way, a ripple effect could be felt through all the racinos. West Virginia gambling laws might assure that West Virginians who enjoy gambling might one day be crossing state lines to gamble at the Pennsylvania horse tracks, with a big loss of jobs and tax revenues for the state of West Virginia.

West Virginia Lottery Information

The West Virginia State Lottery allows gamblers to enjoy Cash 25, Pick 3, Hot Lotto Jackpot, the Mega Millions Lotto, and the Powerball Lottery. Players also can buy Keno Bonus and scratch-off lottery tickets.