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Online Poker still Illegal in Washington State

by AintLuck.com Poker Team on May 16, 2008

Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts of King County in Washington state, dealt a huge blow to online poker fans yesterday. Roberts upheld a 2006 law passed in Washington State, that made playing Internet poker a felony. Roberts announced her decision as nearly 70-80 poker supporters outside the Justice center exuded their disbelief.

“We are not criminals. We’re not people off in the hinterland. We really are average citizens,” said Drew Lesofski, the Washington, D.C.-based director of Poker Players Alliance. His group, which claims a million members nationwide, organized the rally. “This censorship can’t be tolerated,” he said.

Lee Rousso, an attorney fighting for Internet poker player rights, argued that this law violated a US Constitutional commerce clause and is cruel and unusual punishment. Rousso continued to ascertain that this law was a protectionist measure by the state that discriminates against legal, out of state companies, who would like to do business in Washington. The law forces gamblers in the state to frequent their local casinos and to spend money in the state as opposed to online.

Bill Sponsor

Not surprisingly, the original bill was sponsored by Senator Margarita Prentice, who’s district has a number of casinos and land based poker rooms that capitalize from the law. A similar type of practice is happening throughout Europe, where countries are trying to ban online gambling so that citizens spend money in their state operated card rooms and casinos. The Netherlands is one such country trying to crack down on Internet gambling, but is facing fierce resistance from the European Union (EU). The EU is giving countries like The Netherlands and Greece a final warning before bringing them to court.

The same thing cannot be said here as the US government shows no signs of stepping in to repeal this decision. Currently, there is no explicit federal law against playing Internet poker. Some argue that the 1961 Wire Act, which essentially made betting and making wagers on sports over a wire communication facility a crime, does not explicitly refer to Internet poker.

Punishment for Internet Gambling in Washington State

Since the law was enacted in 2006, no Internet poker player has been charged. A representative from the Washington State Gambling Commission stated that players do fall under the law, but their primary focus has been on operators of Internet gambling sites. Again, this law makes it a Class C felony, for a person caught playing poker online in the state of Washington, a crime on the same level as child molestation.

Internet Poker Player Reactions

“I don’t know why the government would want to put me in jail, because I want to relax and play poker a couple of hours a night in the privacy of my home,” said Linda McCabe.

For many Internet poker players, they want to see big brother stay out of their lives. They see it as a hypocrisy that the government can outlaw an average citizen from playing Internet poker, but still allow their citizens to purchase lottery tickets from them online. This is a serious issue not only for Internet gamblers but for individuals rights in the United States. It should be interesting to see if other states follow suit.

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  • http://www.torontobarristers.com/ Internet Lawyers

    In a way online poker is a gambling only and this is the only reason that it is illegal not only in Washington but in many countries.

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    I agree with you Internet Layers still many countries beg to disagree to legalize this online game.  

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    but its hard also to stop sometimes.

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    This issue had many controversies… 

  • http://www.xufe.com/  Liza

    Gambling online is not illegal. The part that is illegal is
    for banks to transfer funds direct to a gambling site. The new law only makes
    it more difficult to put funds in your account, but not illegal to play. There
    is NO federal law
    that makes the act of wagering online illegal. The legality of online gambling
    varies from country to country.
     

  • BeatriceK

    @Liza:  Good observation- the illegal part has mostly to do with how the  banks and gambling sites interact.  I recently read a short article on online gambling laws-   http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2012/03/08/is-online-gambling-legal-laws-government-enforcement/

  • http://wtgbingo.com/ Warner Goos

    Online poker should stay legal on all USA. There is not much different between poker and bingo gambling.

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    Washington’s casino players still have to wait for legalized gaming in there state. There are millions of people love to play casino games in USA.

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    Well where is their freedom going if they are stopped from playing.

  • John Grints

    I was able to learn how to play poker through online tutorials. I wonder why the state of Washington disallows online gambling. Many people play online casino not to gamble big amount of money but to enjoy and have some fun after a week from a stressful job.

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    Just let them play it isn`t a big deal.

  • hispanic-causin-panic

    This legislators wan to control everything when are we going to say enough.In the first place man dosent have the right to give other man rights gotdam if we aint killin robbing rappin do what u do….we give the legislators the power and got dam we take it back….

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  • http://twitter.com/curtinsea Curtis Woodard

    Search for the WA online poker Initiative on Facebook. We are proposing a voter initiative to change the law in WA and allow us to once again play our game

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    online poker is like my only hobby after work. Love playing online winning or losing is not important as long as it give me stress free hour to relax!

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