Need some poker first?
In a sign that online poker could finally be coming to West Virginia, the state has joined the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), which allows the state to share player pools with the other member states. The Nevada Gaming Control Board announced the addition of West Virginia on Tuesday.
The Mountain State joined New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware and Michigan, making MSIGA now five states. The only state where online poker is legal that is not part of the MSIGA is Pennsylvania, although the law allows the state to enter into interstate online poker agreements.
Of course, the interesting thing about West Virginia’s membership in MSIGA is that there are no online poker rooms in the state, and therefore there are no poker players with whom players in other states can share tables. Why? Poker operators simply didn’t want to locate there because West Virginia’s population is one of the smallest in the country.
The unique thing about online poker compared to online casinos is that poker requires a large player base to function. Online casino players compete against the house, so you only need one player at a table for the games to run. Poker games require multiple players per table and the rake is so low that poker rooms need enough tables to make it financially worthwhile to operate.
However, now operators like PokerStars, WSOP.com or BetMGM might decide it’s worth a try. Because of the other states, there will automatically be a player base, and that player base can encourage anyone in West Virginia who has been hesitant to sign up. If it happens, it will take some time. PokerStars, for example, took eight months to combine its Michigan traffic with New Jersey after Michigan joined MSIGA. And again, Stars already had a presence in Michigan – it would be a base build in West Virginia.
Interstate poker is still limited
There are currently only two interstate poker networks in the United States: WSOP.com and PokerStars. The WSOP includes Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, although Delaware only uses the same software and does not carry the WSOP trademark. PokerStars only covers New Jersey and Michigan.
The WSOP’s Michigan website is not connected to the other two states. And while BetMGM has poker rooms in New Jersey and Michigan (and Pennsylvania, but again, the state isn’t part of MSIGA), it hasn’t merged them.
There is no guarantee that an online poker operator will open a site in West Virginia. However, the fact that the state has joined MSIGA could be an indication that at least one of them has shown interest or that discussions have taken place. If we had to choose one provider, it would be PokerStars, as it is the only one that has both a site in Michigan and is integrated into an interstate network. The WSOP will likely do this with its Michigan site, but PokerStars has already shown the initiative.