West Virginia may not be huge on casinos, but the state still boasts a handful of quality gaming spots. Additionally, speaking relatively, West Virginia has seen an increase in gambling revenues taken in thanks to expansion in the 2010s unlike that of the great majority of other states. The buzzwords for gambling in West Virginia are “upscale” and “racino” – sometimes even mixed.
How upscale can West Virginia casinos get? When the Casino Club at the Greenbrier (more on this historic venue below) opened in 2010, big names from the world of entertainment (Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Brooke Shields, Jessica Simpson, Elliott Gould) and sports (Shaquille O’Neal, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino) were in attendance and “treated” to a private concert by Lionel Richie.
Population: 1.85 million (2017 est.)
Area: 24,230 sq. mi.
Gambling Age (Casinos): 21
Gambling Age (Lottery): 18
Number of Casinos: 5
• The entire state of West Virginia is a remnant from the Civil War, as counties in then-NW Virginia decided to break away from the secessionist state.
• Two West Virginia counties – Clay and Calhoun – are entirely devoid of traffic lights.
• In 1921, the United States’ first sales tax was enacted in West Virginia.
• No one who has participated in a duel may hold public office in the state.
Like the state from which it broke away in advance of the Civil War, West Virginia was fairly well anti-gambling but pro-horse racing right up until the 21st century. In fact, the eighth item within West Virginia’s original code of laws enacted when the state entered the Union in 1863.
While West Virginia had enjoyed legal pari-mutuel racing at horse tracks since the 1930s all out of proportion to the state’s actual population, legislation in 1992 allowed these venues to flourish as never before. After this legalization, the four race tracks in West Virginia immediately added slot machines, video poker and other such gambling machines. At about this time, simulcast racing was introduced throughout the state’s tracks – and suddenly these venues were full-on gambling plazas.
Yet another boon came in 2007, when table gaming and poker rooms at approved sites was enacted into law. Naturally, the extant racinos hurried to install table gaming. In ’08, the prestigious Greenbrier Hotel incorporated casino gaming and poker into the four-star resort lifestyle.
The five casino venues now open in the state include the Casino Club at The Greenbrier; Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races; Mardi Gras Casino and Resort; Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort; and the Wheeling Island Hotel/Casino/Racetrack.
Those looking for something upscale will definitely want to check out the underground casino at the Greenbrier, itself a four-star luxury resort near White Sulphur Springs. This historic spa resort was notably resurrected from near-extinction in the late 2000s by billionaire Jim Justice. In addition to the casino, Justice brought a regular PGA Tour event to the Greenbrier’s greens and hosts the New Orleans Saints training camp. Through the Obama Administration, some 26 former and sitting U.S. presidents have visited the Greenbrier. It remains to be seen whether president #45 will visit the place during his term of office; reported Justice contacted the Donald back in 2008, only to be spurned when requesting investment assistance.
As stated, the Hollywood, Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island casinos operate in tandem with on- and off-track horse racing, but these are no mere “racinos”: They’re some of the biggest such venues in the entire U.S.! The Hollywood and Mountaineer boast some 5,000 and 3,200 slot machines, respectively, and all casinos in West Virginia host table games and poker.
In addition, the Big Easy poker room in Cross Lanes is just straight-up poker.
Again, typical stuff here: West Virginia’s minimum age for casino gambling and poker is 21; for all other forms of gambling, including the state lottery and horse racing, it’s 18.
As host of the Price is Right and other television programs, Steve Harvey may be the most visible West Virginian in the U.S. And Steve Harvey likes to gamble socially; no big whoop there, as so many of us do. But sometimes the thrill of table gaming can act as distraction; for ordinary schlubs, this isn’t much of a problem. If you’re a high-profile figure, however, a loss of focus may be had in front of billions and before you know it, you’re a freakin’ meme. Like Steve Harvey.
See, back in December 2015, Harvey was in Las Vegas to host an event called the Miss Universe Pageant. He hit the high-end roulette tables on Friday night, and photos of the nattily-attired host partying it up appeared on TMZ the following day.
TMZ was later informed – but possessed no images – of Harvey at the same wheel at Caesars on Sunday, enjoying “a few drinks” while gambling just *a few hours* before airing of the live event. Again, all well and good. Assuming Harvey isn’t blasted and no profane images hit TMZ too quickly, it’s still no harm no foul.
And then, of course, came Harvey’s unprecedented flub, which had him trying to shrink into the floor as millions watched as he crowned the wrong lady Miss Universe. And the internet went nuts. And Donald Trump tweeted about it.
Just about all types of gambling are offered at the state’s four horse tracks, but all other gambling is still right out. The implication is that online casinos are illegal to play at if a resident of West Virginia, though not a single arrest has been made on such a charge.
Daily fantasy sports betting online is also allowed in West Virginia.
With Delaware introducing intrastate online gambling in the 2010s, some whisperings have been made in West Virginia media and legislative sessions about the possibility of allowing West Virginians to get in on the gaming over there, but nothing on this subject has happened.
The more pressing concern for the West Virginia casino business. at least from the owner/operators’ perspective, is the opening of the MGM National Harbor casino in nearby Washington, D.C. in 2016. Despite the fact that ’16 was ultimately the best-yet for West Virginia casino revenues, the outlets there began getting nervous in early ’17 about the loss of business. From the outside, however, it’s hard to imagine a noticeable loss of business at West Virginia’s unique racinos.