News Timeline: Washington State Anti-Online Gambling Law

by , Oct 15, 2010 | 12:06 pm

Washington state’s anti-internet gambling law has been getting a lot of attention lately after the Supreme Court in that state upheld the law late last month. Its worth noting, however, that this has been a struggle that’s been going on for over 5 years, where only now sites such as Pokerstars have pulled out of the mix. Here’s a look back at the big dates as we look at how we got to where we are now in my first “news timeline” of a big news story:

  • June 2006 – The law is initially passed, specifically banning online gambling and making it a Class C felony to gamble on the internet. This made it an equivalent crime to forgery, possession of child pornography, and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. As with all Class C felonies it also carried a 5 year sentence and/or a $10,000 fine. Critics even in the early stages said the law was too broad to hold up in court [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
  • April 2007 – In order to protect Washington State citizens from government intrusion, state legislators passed Bill 1243 to correct excessiveness in the 2006 law. Now, it is legal for a Washington state resident to gamble online for recreation, but not for “organized profit” (read: profession). Although the change was made, it is still illegal for online operators to provide online poker to the state, making the change largely cosmetic. [Pokerpages.com]
  • May 2008 – A King County court judge is the first to uphold the gambling law from challenges from Lee Rousso (attorney and the PPA’s Washington State Director).The judge in the case, Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts, stated that Rousso had not proven that the state law unfairly protected gambling within the state at the expense of interests outside of Washington. [Seattle Times]
  • March 2009 – An appeals court was the next destination for Rousso’s quest to overturn the 2006 law. Unfortunately, he was not successful either. In a unanimous decision by three Division I appeals judges, Rousso would have to prove that criminalizing online poker imposes excessive burdens on commerce. Even by this point, there hadn’t been any prosecutions of online poker players to date, but Rousso felt this was an important enough issue to appeal to the Washington Supreme Court. [Bluff Magazine]
  • May 2010 – The PPA hold a rally outside of the Washington Supreme Court to try to show the justices of the court support for overturning the law. [PPA]
  • September 2010 – The last possible court before forcing the case to go to federal once again sided with the State of Washington after arguments were heard earlier in the year. While the state was not delegated power to deal with online gambling, the law does not violate the commerce clause nor is it considered an “excessive” law, with the court citing gambling problems that are found in off-line and on-line casinos alike in its ruling. [Eric Goldman Tech & Marketing Law Blog]
  • September 30, 2010 – After spending years stating the law did not apply to online poker, Pokerstars announces that Washington state players may no longer play on Pokerstars for real money. They cited the Washington Supreme Court decision as the main reason for its decision, though in theory nothing has really changes so its interesting that Stars waiting until all appeals were exhausted before enacting the ban. [Pokerstars]
  • October 5, 2010 – As announced here earlier, Full Tilt has stated that they are monitoring the Washington state situation closely and will make a decision regarding offering real-money play to the state’s citizens in the near future. With Pokerstars’ pullout from the state a week earlier, the pressure has been turned up on other US-facing sites to make a decision. [Part Time Poker]

  • http://www.twitter.com/JamesDaBear JamesDaBear

    Don’t forget to note that along this timeline… Washington State has not taken action against one poker player or operator, big or small.

  • http://www.cardrunners.com/blog/spartanfox Mark Gahagan

    Very true, although the 2007 addendum to the law made it pretty hard to prosecute individual players. The law used the term “organized profit”, which I think has more to do with organized crime than being a professional player. After the change, it seems that the legislation targets the sites more than the players, which is probably why Lee Rousso used the commerce clause argument.

  • DanM

    We gotta get ourselves a “thumbs up” thingy. great stuff, mark. i think sometimes people forget recent history in the natural course of current events.

  • http://www.twitter.com/JamesDaBear JamesDaBear

    Correct, Mark. And isn’t it quite foolish to think the State of Washington and their hick legislature can have any jurisdiction over an overseas company? They can hoot and holler all they like, but they still have to follow through on their “threats” and enforce their “punishments.” I’ve used an SAT analogy with this situation:

    UIGEA is to Financial Instutions as
    Washington State Anti-Internet Gambling Law is to ISPs

    The only way this “ban” has any teeth is for Washington State to get ISPs to block the “offending” sites themselves… except PokerStars did their dirty work for them and gave the right wing and other hick states the blueprint to rid themselves of online gambling and who knows what other freedoms they don’t like.

  • http://www.gamblingjones.net/ Jones

    No matter how the deal’s going on at present, I do hope online gambling gets legalized soon.