West Virginia Lottery Exploring Online Gambling Options

west virginiaWest Virginia is the latest state to turn their eye toward the Internet to boost slumping revenue numbers from their state lottery and brick & mortar casino industry.

On Tuesday, West Virginia’s Lottery Director Lottery, John Musgrave informed the Lottery Commission that representatives had met with key casino personnel to discuss the state’s online gaming options according to the Charleston Daily Mail.

Musgrave was quoted as saying, “We’re still exploring (online gaming) because we feel that’s the way the industry’s moving, so we want to plan for it,” adding, “We have not yet made any decision for how we’re going to implement it, but we are looking at it, studying it and seeing how our casinos in our jurisdiction can move in that direction.”

Full online gambling expansion (casino and poker) would require a bill to be passed in the state legislature and signed by the governor, but Musgrave feels adding online lottery sales would not require a change to current laws, intimating online lottery is not far off in West Virginia. “Basically, we think we could implement that now,” Musgrave told the CDM.

Musgrave’s opinion that the state lottery could start offering online lottery sales without legislation stems from the 2011 opinion by the Department of Justice that stated the 1961 Wire Act only applied to sports-betting. An opinion that has allowed multiple states to wade into intrastate online gambling.

The decision came about after the New York and Illinois lotteries asked the Department of Justice if selling lottery tickets was a violation of federal laws back in 2009. In a landmark ruling dated September 20, 2011 (the decision wasn’t made public until December of 2011) Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz offered an opinion that the 1961 Wire Act only applied to sports-betting –opening the door for online lottery sales as well as online gambling, which we have seen passed in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.

Online lotteries in the U.S.

If Musgrave does implement online lottery sales, West Virginia would join Minnesota, Georgia, and Illinois as states offering lottery tickets over the Internet, although several other states also offer second-chance prize drawings through their websites.

Georgia began selling lottery tickets via the internet in November of 2012 and according to the state lottery commission has generated $6.6 million in sales.

Illinois’ first foray into online sales came in March of 2012, while Minnesota’s online lottery sales began way back in November 2010 when they offered subscriptions over the Internet (predating the DOJ’s reversal of their Wire Act opinion on online gambling) but full online expansion wasn’t realized in Minnesota until after the DOJ’s new opinion was issued.

In February of 2014 Minnesota also added online scratch-off cards; a decision that has been met with a severe backlash as the online scratch cards look and play an awful lot like online slot machines. A repeal was called for and passed in the legislature, but Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the bill in May, keeping the online scratch cards on the Minnesota Lottery website.

Other states seriously considering online lottery sales include Michigan and Iowa, and virtually all of the 44 state lotteries in the U.S. are at least exploring online options.

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