There are a number of states around the U.S. that frequently dominate conversations about gaming—these conversations are often enamored with potential, or what could be.
However, West Virginia has quietly become one of the few states to legalize both sports betting and iGaming, thanks in large part to the efforts of Minority Whip Shawn Fluharty, who championed both efforts and was recently appointed president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS).
As 2023 ends and 2024 begins, Fluharty has some sizable goals in mind as he takes the reins from his longstanding predecessor, Indiana state Senator Jon Ford.
“We are focused on growing NCLGS to become the leader in discussing current, relevant gaming topics with the actual decision-makers responsible for passing and implementing gaming legislation,” he says. “NCLGS is the only conference wherein the focus is on legislators and regulators in the gaming industry. Our board is composed of elected representatives from gaming states, and we are a nonpartisan organization that puts progress over politics. We are focused on results in states seeking to introduce and pass gaming legislation that protects the consumer and helps generate revenue for states.”
In addition to his legislative and NCLGS-related duties, Fluharty also serves as head of government affairs for online slot developer Play’n GO. His interest in gaming, he explains, first started in law school and grew over time, especially after he helped bolster the passage of sports betting and iGaming in 2018 and 2019, respectively. These experiences, Fluharty says, have allowed him to grow his “passion for public policy and gaming law” at the same time.
Overall, the biggest lessons learned from Fluharty’s career in law and politics have to do with striking the balance between confidence and humility, having the willingness to “put yourself out there and take some risks” while also knowing when to take advice from those with more experience.
“Most importantly,” he says, “don’t be afraid to reach out to those that have been in the industry, as they were once in your shoes and are willing to pay it forward.” Fluharty cites New Jersey regulator David Rebuck and IGT’s Joe Asher as being particularly influential in his growth in gaming.
Aside from cheering on the Mountaineers of his alma mater West Virginia University, Fluharty also hosts the Bet on Policy, Baby! podcast in his spare time, where he interviews key figures from around the industry—“and we might even make you laugh (or cry) while we are at it.”