Representative Sherry Appleton has introduced House Bill 1114 to the legislature on January 12 of this year in an effort to bring the concept of legal online poker to the floor. The bill has been filed and submitted for committee review.
The measure would reverse the ridiculous law that is in place in the state that criminalise playing online poker. It is actually a felony to play online poker in Washington at this time. Washington is the only US state to have a law like this on the books. There are not even any US federal online gambling laws that impose this type of touch stance against online gambling in general.
Law enforcement in Washington has never arrested or prosecuted anyone for engaging in online poker, nor do they monitor Internet activity in the state in an attempt to catch players in the act. The law was really put in place to target illegal gambling operations within the state, not to stalk players who enjoy online poker.
The over generalized language in the existing law is however confusing and could cause individuals trouble if the state did ever want to go after players, which is not likely.
The bill would authorize and regulate state licensed online poker gambling in Washington and allow the state to launch legal gambling sites for their residents. It would provide the necessary regulatory infrastructure to oversee the industry, manage licensing fees and provide opportunities for Washington to partner with other states to share player pools for increased revenue.
The bill does not include a ‘bad actor’ clause like many other states have done. Bad actor rules used in other states eliminate poker sites such as PokerStars from being eligible for licensing due to their run in with the DOJ during the Black Friday online poker sting.
There are approximately 74 brick and mortar card rooms in Washington state at this time, so there are legally sanctioned state licensed land based poker gambling options for players. Despite the anti-online poker gambling laws in place in the state, offshore online poker gambling is popular among residents.
Should Washington embrace state run online poker, then they will have to compete with the offshore brands as well.
HB 1114 could end up in the review process for a significant amount of time, so the rate of progress will likely depend on how much Appleton and supporters of the bill push for attention to the matter.
This piece of legislation is also likely to catch the attention of anti-online gambling advocate Sheldon Adelson who is injecting himself into the discussion in any state considering an online gambling measure of some kind, and spending millions of dollars on a strategic and bold opposition. He has been credited with fanning the flames of the ongoing controversy among competing parties in California concerning online poker.