Revamped West Virginia problem gambling bill passes state legislature

Pencil and eraser
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What started out as a bill to provide West Virginia universities with anonymized player data to study problem gambling ended up as a law that could establish West Virginia University as one of the premier higher education institutions on the East Coast for gaming-related degrees.

And that is the version of the bill passed by the Senate and concurred by the House this weekend.

The House passed the original version of the bill, sponsored by Delegate Shawn Fluharty, but a Senate committee substitute revised large swaths of the language. For example, the word “required” was removed from the section involving operators providing player data and the new version does not seem to mandate the data is provided. The new section reads:

“For the purposes of research only, West Virginia University shall be permitted to analyze transactional data and metrics of the type collected and maintained by the West Virginia Lottery as of March 1, 2024, related to gaming operations conducted in the state.  For purposes of this section, ‘“’transactional data and metrics’”’ refers to items such as demographic data, usage data, utilization of responsible gaming features, account suspension, complaints and financial information, including deposits, withdrawals, bonus usage, balance statements and bet-level data, as determined in the sole discretion of the West Virginia Lottery.”

The amended bill also instructs WVU to expand its coursework to include training and certificates that “foster innovation in gaming technology development.”

Another key change is that the agency originally delegated with providing a report on the data was the Department of Human Services. The scope of the report was supposed to focus on problem gamblers and gambling addiction in West Virginia.

Under the new bill, the West Virginia Lottery will be the one authoring the report. Moreover, the scope of that study is now entirely different than the proposed one on problem gambling.

Instead, the report is supposed to look at, “the impact of casino, video lottery, iGaming, racing, iLottery, and sports wagering on players and on the state’s economy, innovation in gaming technologies and gaming operations resulting from West Virginia University’s research authorized under this section, curriculum developed to educate future leaders in the state’s gaming and racing industries, and policy proposals developed by the West Virginia Lottery from the research authorized under this section.”

West Virginia’s 1-800-GAMBLER hotline posted on X about its concerns with the revisions.

The bill now heads to Gov. Jim Justice’s desk for his signature.