Amid a rapidly growing movement toward legalizing sports betting in the United States, a major online gaming bill sits in limbo in West Virginia and its deadline for approval is approaching rapidly.
The West Virginia House of Delegates has voted in favor of HB 2934, the online gaming expansion bill. But one crucial obstacle in the State Senate could crush the legislation before it can become law.
The legislation would let bettors participate in online and mobile poker games in addition to casino-based games. The measure could add some serious revenue in West Virginia as it has in several states early in 2019.
HB 2934 has not moved from West Virginia's Senate Judiciary Committee since it was sent along on Feb. 23. The House found no issues with the bill en route to passing it.
The Senate Judiciary Committee must approve the bill before it can make its way to the floor for a full Senate vote.
The problem is, the committee has more than 200 pending bills on its plate, and the online gaming expansion does not appear to be a priority. The committee was not even scheduled to discuss the legislation as of March 5.
Making things that much more complicated for this bill’s supporters is that the end of the legislative session is March 9, so the deadline for the bill to face a full Senate vote is very near. West Virginia’s legislators will only meet for a 60-day period during this year’s session.
If the full Senate passes the bill, it would have to do so with the exact same language as its House version. Any changes would require a compromise between the two branches and that could well push the bill well past the deadline.
The bill would also have to gain approval from Gov. Jim Justice, who has had an unpredictable stance in regards to other gaming expansion strides throughout the state. West Virginia has four commercial casinos and one private hotel casino -- the Greenbriar Resort, which Justice's family owns.