As new Pennsylvania legislation allowing online gambling took effect, West Virginia state Del. Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio County) introduced House Bill 3067 (H.B. 3067), legislation to allow casinos to offer online poker games.
The Pennsylvania law took effect in January 2018, legalizing online poker, slot machines, and some other games of chance and authorizing collection of state taxes from websites hosting those games.
In neighboring West Virginia, Fluharty introduced H.B. 3067 in January, and it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.
The bill would permit businesses with licenses for physical gambling operations to offer online games. Gaming operators would be taxed at 14 percent of gross gaming revenue.
Steven Titch, a telecommunications policy analyst for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says H.B. 3067 would attract players to West Virginia gaming operations by reducing the rake, the game dealer’s commission fee on each round.
“Fourteen percent is a decent rate, and I think it will make West Virginia games pretty competitive,” Titch said. “Then, of course, that keeps the poker game rakes low. It allows a higher return, or you might say, a smaller house edge, on the house bank game. A lower tax rate means a lower price in terms of gambling and a better deal for players.”
‘We’ve Accepted Being Last’
Fluharty says his bill would put the state on the cutting edge of policy.
“It’s important because West Virginia has failed to diversify our economy and properly maintain our gaming industry,” Fluharty said. “It will raise revenue without raising taxes and attract people to our state. We are not seeing a single dime in revenue from it [at present].
“It will also show that we are willing to lead and not simply be the last to act on things that can help our state,” Fluharty said. “For far too long, we’ve accepted being last. That needs to change.”
Editor’s Note: This article was published in partnership with The Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News newspaper. BTN’s managing editor is Jesse Hathaway and BTN’s senior editor is S.T. Karnick.
PHOTO: This work is from the Carol M. Highsmith Archive collection at the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of this work. Carol M. Highsmith has stipulated that her photographs are in the public domain.
Lindsey Curnutte writes from Athens, Ohio.