Online poker could get a second wind as West Virginia joins the multi-state internet gaming agreement (MSIGA).
West Virginia’s iGaming providers will now be allowed to offer a multi-state player pool to online poker players in the Mountain State. West Virginia joins Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Michigan in an agreement first forged in 2014.
Joining the MSIGA is especially advantageous for smaller states with regulated online poker. Being able to tap into larger multi-state player pools, players from smaller states will have access to larger tournament prize pools and better availability of games. And that should attract even more players and, potentially, more online poker providers.
West Virginia’s latest move may also provide other states, which have legalized online poker, to join the MSIGA. For instance, Connecticut legalized online poker in 2022. But so far, online poker operators haven’t set up shop in the state. If Connecticut were to join the MSIGA, it could offer a better environment for both operators and players.
Pennsylvania is another state that could benefit by joining the MSIGA. The Keystone State legalized online poker in 2017. PokerStars was the first online poker room to launch in Pennsylvania, just weeks after its merger with FanDuel’s parent company, Flutter Entertainment. Since then, WSOP.com and BetMGM have also launched online poker in the state. All three brands operate in at least one other state where the MSIGA is in force. The state has been mulling over the decision to join the multi-state compact for more than a year. Meanwhile, the state recently lost its status as the top online poker market to Michigan, which joined the MSIGA last year.
After the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the ban on sports betting, the push to legalize online poker took a back seat to legalizing online sportsbooks. To date, only a handful of states have legalized online poker. Part of the problem is scale. For smaller states with a limited player base, the risks can outweigh the reward for both the state and providers. As the MSIGA grows, however, it could provide a safer and more lucrative environment for online poker in smaller markets.
Alas, No Compact for Sportsbooks
Legalized sportsbooks would champ at the bit to join the MSIGA. It’s hard for online sports betting sites to manage risk within a single state. For instance, if there’s a lot of action on a home team underdog, an upset can be costly.
As much as they’d like to, sportsbook operators cannot pool players – or risk -- across state lines. When the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the states could legalize sports betting, it did not overturn the Federal Wire Act. Interstate sports betting is still – for now – a federal crime.