West Virginia offers several forms of state-sanctioned gambling. Pari-mutuel horse race betting was introduced to the state in 1933. In 1984, the Mountain State established its lottery after following a statewide referendum, and in 1994 another referendum authorized Video Lottery Terminals at the local racetracks. In 2001, VLTs were also introduced to bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, as well as for fraternal organizations, and in 2007, West Virginia racetracks were allowed to begin offering table games.
West Virginia was also one of the first states that legalized sports betting once the Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on this form of gambling in May 2018. The WV Sports Lottery Wagering Act was passed that same month. The first betting license was awarded to Penn National, the company that operates Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. The new sportsbook started taking bets on August 18, 2018, and by the end of the year, four out of five of the local casinos were offering legal sports betting.
On March 27, 2019, West Virginia legislators passed the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, which will introduce legal online casino and poker options to the state via the local land-based casinos. This bill will go into effect on June 7, and the regulatory framework for these new forms of gambling is expected to be ready by early 2020.
It’s worth remembering that the new bill does not legalize playing on offshore sites. West Virginia defines gambling as “betting or wagering money or another thing of value on any game of chance or knowingly giving money or something of value for another to bet on any game of chance.” This definition is broad enough to cover all unauthorized internet games. Placing any unlawful bets constitutes a misdemeanor and is punishable by a $5-$100 fine. The offender may also be required to give security for his good behavior for one year.
Other gambling-related offenses are covered by West Virginia Code, Chapter 61, Article 10: Crimes Against Public Policy. The minimum gambling age in West Virginia is 18 for lottery games, bingo, and racing, and 21 for sports betting and casino-style games.
West Virginia Code
§8-12-5. General powers of every municipality and the governing body thereof.
In addition to the powers and authority granted by: (i) The constitution of this state; (ii) other provisions of this chapter; (iii) other general law; and (iv) any charter, and to the extent not inconsistent or in conflict with any of the foregoing except special legislative charters, every municipality and the governing body thereof shall have plenary power and authority therein by ordinance or resolution, as the case may require, and by appropriate action based thereon: ….
(22) To arrest, convict and punish any person for gambling or keeping any gaming tables, commonly called “A, B, C,” or “E, O,” table or faro bank or keno table, or table of like kind, under any denomination, whether the gaming table be played with cards, dice or otherwise, or any person who shall be a partner or concerned in interest, in keeping or exhibiting the table or bank, or keeping or maintaining any gaming house or place, or betting or gambling for money or anything of value;
§55-9-2. Recovery of money or property lost in gaming.
If any person shall lose to another within twenty-four hours ten dollars or more, or property of that value, and shall pay or deliver the same, or any part thereof, such loser may recover back from the winner the money or property, or in lieu of the property the value thereof, so lost, by suit in court, or before a justice, according to the amount or value, brought within three months after such payment or delivery. The loser may so recover from the winner, notwithstanding the payment or delivery was to the winner’s indorsee, assignee, or transferee. But nothing in this section shall be so construed as to permit a recovery of such property, or its value, from any person (or those claiming under him) other than the winner, when such person has paid value for such property without notice of illegal consideration under which the winner derived his claim of title.
ARTICLE 10. CRIMES AGAINST PUBLIC POLICY.
CHAPTER 61. CRIMES AND THEIR PUNISHMENT. ARTICLE 10. CRIMES AGAINST PUBLIC POLICY.
§61-10-1. Keeping or exhibiting gaming table, machine, or device; penalty; seizure of table, machine or device; forfeiture of money used in such gaming.
Any person who shall keep or exhibit a gaming table, commonly called A.B.C. or E.O. table, or faro bank, or keno table, or any slot machine, multiple coin console machine, multiple coin console slot machine or device in the nature of a slot machine, or any other gaming table or device of like kind, under any denomination, or which has no name, whether the game, table, bank, machine or device be played with cards, dice or otherwise, or shall be a partner, or concerned in interest, in keeping or exhibiting such table, bank, machine or gaming device of any character, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be confined in jail not less than two nor more than twelve months and be fined not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand dollars. Any such table, faro bank, machine or gaming device, and all money staked or exhibited to allure persons to bet at such table, or upon such gaming device, may be seized by order of a court, or under the warrant of a justice, and the money so seized shall be forfeited to the county and paid into the treasury of the county in which such seizure is made, and the table, faro bank, machine or gaming device shall be completely destroyed: Provided, however, That the provisions of this section shall not extend to coin-operated nonpayout machines with free play feature or to automatic weighing, measuring, musical and vending machines which are so constructed as to give a certain uniform and fair return in value or services for each coin deposited therein and in which there is no element of chance.
§61-10-2. Permitting gaming table or device on premises; penalty.
If any person knowingly permit a gaming table, bank or device, such as is mentioned in the preceding section, to be kept or exhibited on any premises in his occupation, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be confined in jail not more than one year, and be fined not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand dollars.
§61-10-3. Unlawful to act as doorkeeper, guard or watch for keeper of gaming table or device; penalty.
If any person shall act as doorkeeper, guard or watch, or employ another person to act as such, for a keeper or exhibitor of any such gaming table, bank or device, or shall resist, or by any means or device, prevent, hinder or delay the lawful arrest of such keeper or exhibitor, or the seizure of the table, bank or device, or money exhibited or staked thereat, or shall unlawfully take the same from the person seizing it, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be confined in jail not more than one year and be fined not exceeding one thousand dollars.
§61-10-4. Playing or betting at gaming tables and devices; playing or betting on games at hotels and public places; penalty .
If any person bet or play at any such gaming table, bank or device as is mentioned in the first section of this article, or if, at any hotel or tavern, or other public place, or place of public resort, he play at any game except bowls, chess or backgammon, draughts or a licensed game, or bet on the sides of those who play at any game, whether the game be permitted or licensed or not, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than five nor more than one hundred dollars, and shall, if required by the court, give security for his good behavior for one year, or, in default thereof, may be imprisoned in the county jail not more than three months.
§61-10-5. Betting on games of chance; furnishing money or thing of value therefor; penalty.
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, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than five nor more than three hundred dollars, and shall, if required by the court, give security for his good behavior for one year, and in default of the payment of such fine and the costs and the execution of such bond, if such bond be required, shall be imprisoned in the county jail not less than ten nor more than thirty days.
§61-10-6. Permitting gaming at hotels; penalty.
If the keeper of a hotel or tavern permit unlawful gaming at his house, or at any outhouse, booth, arbor, or other place appurtenant thereto or held therewith, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, be fined not less than twenty nor more than one hundred dollars, and shall forfeit his license, and shall give security for his good behavior for one year, or, in default of such security, be imprisoned in the county jail not more than four months.
§61-10-7. Presumption against hotelkeeper.
In a prosecution under the preceding section, if the gaming be proved, it shall be presumed it was permitted by the keeper of the hotel, unless it appear that he did not know of or suspect such gaming, or that he endeavored to prevent it, and gave information of it, with the names of the players, to the next circuit court of the county in which such gaming occurred, or to the prosecuting attorney thereof.
§61-10-8. Gaming at outhouse of hotel; penalty .
If the keeper of a hotel or tavern let or hire to another person any outhouse or other place, which has been at any time appurtenant to or held with the house kept by him, with intent that unlawful gaming be permitted thereat, he shall suffer the same punishment and incur the same forfeiture as if such unlawful gaming were permitted at his own principal house; and in a prosecution therefor, if the gaming be proved, it shall be presumed that such outhouse or other place was let or hired with intent aforesaid, unless the presumption be repelled in the manner provided for in the preceding section.
§61-10-9. Cheating at gaming; penalty.
If any person playing at any game, or making a wager, or having a share in any stake or wager, or betting on the hands or sides of others playing at any game or making a wager, shall cheat, or by fraudulent means win or acquire for himself, or another, money or other valuable thing, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be confined in jail not more than one year and fined not less than five times the value of the money or thing won or acquired.
§61-10-10. Poolroom defined; selling tickets and chances in lottery; penalty.
The word “poolroom ,” wherever the same is used in this section, shall be held and construed to mean any room where any pool ticket, chance voucher or certificate is sold entitling or purporting to entitle the holder or promisee thereof, or any other person, to money or other thing of value, contingent upon the result of any horse race, prizefight, game of chance, game of skill or science, or other sport or contest. Any person who shall set up or promote, or be connected with or interested in the management or operation of any poolroom, his agents, servants or employees, they, and each of them, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than two hundred nor more than one thousand dollars for each offense, and may, in the discretion of the court, be confined in jail not to exceed one year. The buying, selling or transferring of tickets or chances in any lottery shall be and the same is hereby prohibited.
§61-10-11. Lotteries or raffles; penalty.
If any person shall set up or promote or be concerned in managing or drawing a lottery or raffle, for money or other thing of value, or knowingly permit such lottery in any house under his control, or knowingly permit money or other property to be raffled for in such house, or to be won therein, by throwing or using dice, or by any other game of chance, or knowingly permit the sale in such house of any chance or ticket, or share of a ticket, in a lottery, or any writing, certificate, bill, token or other device purporting or intended to guarantee or assure to any person, or to entitle him to a prize, or a share of, or interest in, a prize to be drawn in a lottery, or shall, for himself, or any other person, buy, sell, or transfer, or have in his possession for the purpose of sale, or with intent to exchange, negotiate, or transfer, or shall aid in selling, exchanging, negotiating, or transferring a chance or ticket, or a share of a ticket, in a lottery, or any such writing, certificate, bill, token or device, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall, in the discretion of the court, be confined in jail not more than one year or be fined not exceeding one thousand dollars, or both: Provided, however, That this section shall not be deemed to apply to that certain type or form of lottery or raffle designated and familiarly known as “policy” or “numbers.”
§61-10-11a. “Policy” or “numbers”; penalty.
Any person who keeps, occupies or uses, or permits to be kept, occupied or used, a place, building, room, table, establishment or apparatus for “policy” or “numbers” playing or for the sale of what are commonly called “lottery policies,” or who delivers or receives money or other valuable consideration in playing “policy” or “numbers,” or in aiding in the playing thereof, or for what is commonly called a “lottery policy,” or for any writing, or document in the nature of a bet, wager, or insurance upon the drawing or selection, or the drawn or selected numbers of any “policy” or “numbers” lottery; or who shall have in his possession, knowingly, any writing, paper or document, representing or being a record of any chance, share or interest in numbers sold, drawn or selected, or to be drawn or selected in what is commonly called “policy” or “numbers,” or in the nature of a bet, wager or insurance, upon the drawing or selection, or the drawn or selected numbers of any “policy” or “numbers” lottery; or any paper, print, writing, number, device, policy slip, or article of any kind such as is commonly used in carrying on, promoting or playing the game commonly called “policy” or “numbers”; or who is the owner, agent, superintendent, janitor or caretaker of any place, building, or room where “policy” or “numbers” playing or the sale of what are commonly called “lottery policies” is carried on with his knowledge or after notification that the premises are so used, permits such use to be continued, or who aids, assists, or abets in any manner, in any of the offenses, acts or matters herein named, shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction, shall, in the discretion of the court, either be confined in the penitentiary not less than one year nor more than five years, or be confined in jail not less than six nor more than twelve months and fined not less than two hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars. Upon commission of a second or subsequent offense under this section, he shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be confined in the penitentiary of this state for a period of not less than two years nor more than ten years.
§61-10-11b. Possession of “policy” or “numbers” slips unlawful.
The possession, by any person other than a public officer acting in his official capacity, of any writing, paper, or document representing or being a record of any chance, share or interest in numbers, sold, given away, drawn, or selected, or to be drawn or selected, in what is commonly called “policy” or “numbers,” or in the nature of a bet, wager or insurance upon the drawing or selection, or the drawn or selected numbers of any “policy” or “numbers” lottery, or any paper, print, writing, numbers of device, policy slip, or article of any kind, such as is commonly used in carrying on, promoting or playing the game commonly called “policy” or “numbers,” is presumptive evidence of possession thereof knowingly and in violation of the provisions of section eleven-a of this article.
§61-10-12. Proceeds of lottery forfeited to the State.
All money and things of value drawn or proposed to be drawn by an inhabitant of this State, and all money or other things of value received by such person by reason of his being the owner or holder of a ticket, or a share of a ticket, in any lottery, or pretended lottery, contrary to the provisions of this article, shall be forfeited to the State.
§61-10-13. Associations and companies trading as bank without authority of law; penalty.
All members of any association or company that shall trade or deal as a bank, or carry on banking, without authority of law, and their officers and agents therein or thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be confined in jail not more than six months, and fined not less than one hundred nor more than five hundred dollars.
§61-10-14. Laws on gaming, lotteries and unchartered banks remedial.
All laws for suppressing gaming, lotteries and unchartered banks shall be construed as remedial.
§61-10-18. Conducting bucket shop; penalty.
If any person shall carry on in this state what is commonly known as a bucket shop, or act as agent for any person, firm or corporation carrying on such business, or engage in transactions for the purchase or sale for others of grain, provisions, stocks, securities, merchandise or other property wherein the parties thereto or the broker intend that such transaction shall be settled according to the public market quotations on any board of trade or exchange, or intend that such transaction may be deemed terminated when such public market quotations shall reach a certain figure, or intend that such property shall be resold before or at the time fixed in such transaction for the delivery of such property and that the difference between the contract price and the market price thereof shall be paid or received without the prior receipt or delivery of such property under the former sale, he shall be guilty of a felony, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in the penitentiary not less than two nor more than five years.