Need some poker first
In a sign that online poker might finally be coming to West Virginia, the state has joined the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), allowing the state to share player pools with the other member states. The Nevada Gaming Control Board announced West Virginia’s inclusion on Tuesday.
The Mountain State joined New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Michigan to now make MSIGA five states strong. The only state where online poker is legal that is not in MSIGA is Pennsylvania, though the law does allow for the state to enter into interstate online poker compacts.
Of course, the interesting thing about West Virginia’s membership into MSIGA is that there are no online poker rooms operating in the state and thus there are no poker players with which players in other states can share tables. Why? The poker operators simply haven’t wanted to setup shop there because West Virginia’s population is among the smallest in the country.
The unique thing about online poker compared to online casinos is that poker needs a sizable player base to work. Online casino players compete against the house, so for games to run, you only need one player at a table. Poker games require multiple players per table and the rake is small enough that the poker rooms need enough tables going to make the operation worth it financially.
Now, though, operators like PokerStars, WSOP.com, or BetMGM might decide it’s worth a shot. There will automatically be a player base because of the other states and that player base may encourage anyone in West Virginia who was 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 ground-up build in West Virginia.
Interstate poker still limited
There are currently just two interstate poker networks in the United States: WSOP.com and PokerStars. WSOP covers Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, though Delaware’s only uses the same software and does not share the WSOP brand. PokerStars spans only New Jersey and Michigan.
WSOP’s Michigan site is not on the network with the other two states. And though BetMGM has poker rooms in New Jersey and Michigan (and Pennsylvania, but again, the state is not part of MSIGA), it has not joined them together.
There is no guarantee that any online poker operator will launch a site in West Virginia, though the fact that the state joined MSIGA could be an indication that at least one has shown interest or that there have been talks. If we had to pick one operator to dive in, it would be PokerStars, as it is the only one that both has a site in Michigan and has integrated into an interstate network. WSOP will probably do that with its Michigan site, but PokerStars has shown the initiative already.