West Virginia Becomes Fifth Member of Interstate Online Poker Compact

  • West Virginia joins New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Michigan
  • The state, though, does not have any online poker rooms
  • The entry into MSIGA could entice poker operators to launch in the state
  • WSOP.com and PokerStars both have interstate online poker networks
New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia
Despite not having an online poker room, West Virginia has joined the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

The more, the merrier

As fast as the growth of sports betting has been in the United States, the growth of online poker has been quite the opposite. In fact, the game – in its legal, regulated, form – barely exists in the country. On Tuesday, though, there was a bit of good news for poker fans, as West Virginia joined the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), allowing online poker rooms in the state to share liquidity with the other four states in the group: New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Michigan.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board announced West Virginia’s inclusion:

It is an important step for all the states that are part of MSIGA, as online poker relies on a critical mass of players. Poker tables need players to run and to generate rake for the sites. The more players a site or network has, the more attractive it is to potential customers, thus making it easier to grow. When numbers dwindle, it can start a spiral, as the lack of action causes players to leave and potential players to stay away.

Still needs an online poker room

There is one catch in all of this, though: West Virginia does not have any online poker rooms, despite online poker being legalized in the Mountain State in 2019. The state simply doesn’t have the population – approximately 1.5 million adults – to be attractive to online poker operators.

Nevada, though small, still has nearly twice the population of West Virginia

Delaware is smaller, but was one of the founding members of MSIGA nearly a decade ago, so it has enjoyed the benefit of an expanded player pool. Nevada, though small, still has nearly twice the population of West Virginia and was the first state to have online poker.

All of the states that are part of MSIGA had established online poker rooms before they joined the compact; West Virginia would be the first in which an operator would come in with the state already in the consortium. Its inclusion could (should?) be a catalyst for an operator to take the plunge, but it would still take months to get everything set up and to get over all the regulatory hurdles.

Just two interstate poker networks

Right now, and this probably would not change if a poker operator does launch in West Virginia, there are just two interstate online poker networks in the US. The oldest is the WSOP.com/888 network, technically called the All American Poker Network – though that name is never used – consisting of Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Nevada and Delaware created it (and MSIGA) in 2014 and New Jersey came along in 2017.

The sites in New Jersey and Nevada operate under the WSOP.com brand and thus can participate in World Series of Poker online events. The three Delaware racino-based sites use the same 888 software, but don’t use the WSOP name and thus aren’t included in WSOP-specific events. WSOP.com is also in Michigan, but Michigan uses a different version of the poker platform, so it is separate for now.

Pennsylvania, the biggest online poker market in country, is home to PokerStars, BetMGM, and WSOP.com. The problem is that even though its law permits it to enter into an interstate poker compact, it has not joined MSIGA and thus its poker sites remain ringfenced from the others.

PokerStars just started its interstate online poker network, joining New Jersey and Michigan at the start of this year. BetMGM has online poker sites in New Jersey and Michigan, but has not created an interstate network.

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