West Virginia Responsible Gaming and Research Act Would Require Gambling Operators to Share Data With Researchers

West Virginia is considering legislation that would compel gambling operators to share data with academics for responsible gaming research purposes. It’s a move that harm reduction advocates have been calling for, and the Mountain State now has a chance to lead the way.

HB5668 appeared in the House on Feb. 13, aiming to create the West Virginia Responsible Gaming and Research Act (RGRA)Its primary sponsor is Rep. Roger Hanshaw, currently Speaker of the House. He is joined by Rep. Shawn Fluharty, notably the president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS). The NCLGS is currently working on model iGaming legislation. This document would serve as a template for all future states looking to legalize online casinos.

RGRA would apply to all gambling operators and intermediaries in the state, online and retail alike. It would require them to supply anonymized player data to West Virginia University (WVU) on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The Minnesota Alliance on Problem Gambling proposed a similar policy when that state considered sports betting legislation last year. The idea is now starting to catch on.

Maryland is looking at holding an iGaming referendum this year. Its proposal includes data sharing with Morgan State University’s Data Analytics program and Bowie State University’s eSports program.

New Jersey’s latest gambling treatment diversion court bill also includes a mandatory data-sharing provision. However, that would apply to the treatment providers working with the courts to help those with gambling-related criminal convictions avoid time behind bars.

Gambling operators—especially online operators—collect a great deal of player behavior data. This allows them to optimize their products and target their marketing and promotional bonuses. However, the same data could hold the key to tackling problem gambling.

Data Would Lead to Annual Reports Starting in 2026

Hanshaw and Fluharty have taken pains to ensure that RGRA would not compromise player privacy in any way. Operators would need to anonymize the data and strip it of any information that could connect it to particular users. The bill also states that the data would not constitute a public record and could not be accessed through a Freedom of Information Act request.

West Virginia House of Delegates Communications Director Ann Ali explained to Bonus that operators also would not have to fear any enforcement action based on the data they provide:

The purpose of the legislation is narrowly tailored for academic research at West Virginia University, with all the information anonymized and couldn’t be used for regulatory purposes.

Findings from the data would eventually become publicly available, however.

WVU researchers could use the data to publish studies in peer-reviewed journals. These studies could influence future changes to regulatory policies, even though the state regulator wouldn’t be monitoring the data directly.

The university would also share the data with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the State Lottery Commission.

The bill tasks the DHS with using the data it receives from WVU to prepare an annual report starting on Jan. 1, 2026.

The report would cover “the impact of casino, iGaming, racing, iLottery, and sports wagering, on problem gamblers and gambling addiction in West Virginia,” and be submitted to the bicameral Joint Committee on Government and Finance. 

Speaker Hanshaw is currently the House chair for that committee. Senate President Craig Blair is his counterpart in the other half of the legislature.

 

About the Author

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon is an online gambling industry analyst with nearly ten years of experience. He currently serves as Casino News Managing Editor for Bonus.com, part of the Catena Media Network. Other gambling news sites he has contributed to include PlayUSA and Online Poker Report, and his writing has been cited in The Atlantic.
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