With possible intrastate online gambling legalisation bills under consideration in New Jersey, California and Florida, there was speculation in West Virginia this week that the growing competitive pressure that could develop may cause a rethink on the state’s present antipathy to internet gambling.
The Charleston Gazette reported that the consensus remained against the concept, quoting John Melton, lead legal counsel for the West Virginia Lottery Commission. Nevertheless, Melton acknowledged that there was a strong argument for the proposition that the internet was the next major frontier in gambling.
Melton said lawmakers in West Virginia have not yet addressed the issue, adding: “If everybody else does it, we’d probably do it as well.” He warned, however, that the idea of betting over the Internet has certain problems for state officials looking to enforce gambling laws. Any legislation put in place would have to include safeguards to make sure underage bettors aren’t gambling.
Eric Schippers, vice president of public affairs for Penn National Gaming, which owns Charles Town Races and its accompanying casino in Charles Town, predicted: “More and more states are going to be exploring this issue.”
He pointed out that officials would have to make sure the gaming system remains in-state, so that someone placing online bets in Morgantown wouldn’t see their Internet signal pass through Pennsylvania before arriving in Charleston.
Schippers said Internet gaming probably will require federal regulation before all is said and done, and might end up in court as competing interests battle for and against the concept.
“I think there’s going to be some legal action against it,” Schippers told the newspaper. “I think we’re going to be a passive observer of how this plays out in New Jersey before we look at other states.”
Dan Adkins, vice president of Florida-based Hartman & Tyner Inc., which owns Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Nitro, told the Charleston Gazette that he probably would take advantage of Internet gaming at the casino if West Virginia lawmakers approved the idea.
However, he had reservations about the technology, saying: “I don’t think the technology is there, despite what people say, to make it safe. I’m not too sure it’s a good idea.
“I’m not too sure the country — let alone West Virginia — is ready for it yet.”