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West Virginia Legislature Approves Overhaul of Gambling Data Sharing Bill

PLAY USA (March, 12, 2024) – A bill that could define West Virginia University’s role in the state’s gambling industry moving forward is now just a signature away from becoming law in the state. However, the bill’s tenets have undergone a major overhaul compared to the original version.

The approved version would grant researchers at West Virginia University access to gambling companies’ data about player activity and expand programs at the university to develop a workforce for the state’s gambling industry. The changes from the introduced version of the bill have left a sour taste in some mouths.

Bill originally sought to analyze problem gambling in West Virginia

Two members of the West Virginia House of Delegates introduced HB5668 in early February. In its original version, the bill would have required gambling licensees in the state to share their player activity data with researchers at West Virginia University on an annual, quarterly or monthly basis.

Those researchers would have then worked with the West Virginia Dept. of Human Services to study that data to ascertain the prevalence and impact of potential problem gambling in the state. The Department of Human Services would then have submitted a report to the state legislature on those subjects annually beginning in January 2026.

However, much of that language is not part of the version of HB5668 that the legislature approved on March 9.

Amendment significantly overhauls HB5668

As approved by both the House of Delegates and the Senate, an amendment introduced by the Senate Judiciary Committee alters the role of West Virginia University in this scope.

While the amendment still grants West Virginia University researchers access to gambling player data, there is no longer language requiring licensees to disclose such data. Thus, the onus shifts to those researchers seeking such data instead of putting it on the gambling operators to share it.

Additionally, the new language removes the Department of Human Services from the report preparation process, putting the duty of preparing an annual report for the legislature on the West Virginia Lottery. In the same paragraph, the reference to “problem gamblers and gambling addiction in West Virginia” has been replaced by “the state’s economy, innovation in gaming technologies and gaming operations.”

Furthermore, the amendment requires West Virginia University to “develop a new program or alter or expand existing programs to include courses, training, certificates, initiatives or other methods designated to foster innovation in gaming technology development, and prepare students for careers in racing, gaming, gaming operations, hospitality management, guest relations, entertainment, and other amenities typically offered in conjunction with gaming operations.”

There is some discontent with these changes in West Virginia.

Responsible gambling advocates express displeasure with changes

Prior to the House of Delegates’ concurrence with the Senate amendment, advocates for the treatment of problem gambling in West Virginia pleaded with legislators not to approve the amended bill.

Although it’s not yet clear whether West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice will sign the bill, as far as the legislature went, those pleas fell on deaf ears. Should Justice sign, West Virginia University staff could have some new duties to attend.

Those duties would be drastically different than the framers of this bill originally intended.

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