Washington State Online Poker Bill Introduced

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The year 2006 was notable in the poker world for how up and down it was. On the one hand, you had the largest World Series of Poker Main Event of all time, when Jamie Gold jawed his way to the championship and an incredible $12 million. But on the other hand, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in the United States, forbidding the transfer of funds to and from online gambling sites. And then there was Washington State, which passed a law that not only banned online poker, but made actually playing the game a Class C felony, on par with child pornography.

That law was a story of corruption, as the states tribes and card rooms lobbied against online poker, afraid that it would cut into their gaming dollars. State Senator Margarita Prentice, who only served one term, was more than happy to take up their cause and rammed through the ridiculous legislation. Of course, that in and of itself isn’t necessarily that bizarre, as there are endless examples of money and bombastic legislators trumping (pun not intended, but approved) the wishes of the electorate in U.S. politics. What put this whole thing over the top was Sen. Prentice’s vitriol against online poker and the people who played it.

When PokerStars finally withdrew from Washington in 2010 following a State Supreme Court ruling, ESPN.com’s Gary Wise wrote an article about the whole mess, featuring professional poker player Dan “Wretchy” Martin, who lamented that he may have to move to continue to play poker.

Sen. Prentice gave zero shits, saying, “I just think some of these arguments are utter nonsense. You mean you’re going to move so you can play poker? Gee, lots of luck in your life. … I have nothing against card playing. That’s fine. If you want to do that, but I’m sure not going to worry about someone … you know. Let them go pump gas.”

All that is prelude to last week, when Washington State Representatives Sherry Appleton and Vincent Buys reintroduced Rep. Appleton’s House Bill 1114, a bill which aims erase Sen. Prentice’s legacy and legalize and regulate online poker in the state. It probably won’t happen, at least not any time soon, as there has been little support for it yet. That is not to say people don’t think it’s a good idea, but there hasn’t been any sort of real push from anyone else to make it happen. Sen. Appleton originally introduced the bill a bit over a year ago and this is already the fourth time it has been introduced.

The bill is largely the same as other poker bills around the country; it is poker-only, permits for licenses for both poker operators and other poker service providers, and prescribes licensing fees. Tax rates are TBD. One area that it does differ is that the legal online poker-playing age would be 18, rather than 21 as it is in most states.

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